The major purpose of the United States Constitution is to establish justice and limit the powers of both the executive and legislature. This is enhanced by creation of the independent judicial body. The judiciary is the link between people and other arms of the government. American liberty will be safe as long as the judiciary has a clear distinction from the legislature and executive. The judicial branch has a role to settle disputes between citizens and the government in a truthful, just, and fair manner. The judiciary protects citizens from crimes, punishes those who disobey the law, and tests the validity of the Constitution. This calls for a strong judiciary, which should be independent and impartial.
Therefore, is the judiciary independent? Is there a clear separation between the judiciary and other organs of the government? The American Constitution states that as long as federal judges hold office, they will always get compensation for the services they render.
The above clause protects the tenure of judges if they respect the provisions of their office. No party can dock their salaries if they decide a case not in favor of the interested party as a form of punishment. The President or the Congress cannot fire them if they go against their wishes. This security provides an environment where the judges exercise duties in a proper and legal manner, and give sentences fairly and impartially. The Constitution thus protects the judges from pressures coming from the legislature, executive, and the public.
Consider a football referee who in the dying moments of a close game notices a clear foul in the penalty area. The referee has an obligation to call in the penalty. The crowd will of course boo him or her, but the referee has to be fair in his judgments and give the penalty.
However, judges must get a deserving punishment for an abuse of office. Under the federal law, judges can be punished or impeached for serious misbehavior. Constructive criticism is also welcome to the judiciary. In many cases, the losing side will usually complain about a certain judgment. The tenure of office of federal judges ensures that the judges do not bow to pressure from the losing side, but rather gives an impartial ruling.
Per se, the judicial branch is impartial and independent. This independence is hard and takes a lot of time to attain. However, destroying this independence is remarkably easy. The three organs must work together, as judges lack the ability to enforce their judgments. Federal judges have their origin in the executive and legislature. The President appoints the federal judges, while the Congress approves the appointees. Although the double appointment process reduces the chance of unfairness in the selection process, there is still that small chance that the process is not fair. What if both the President and the Congress have a liking for a particular federal judge? They will most likely put him in office unfairly, which is a case of non-independence of the judges.
98% of cases in the United States are heard in state courts, and we must analyze their impartiality. In a majority of states, judges must be re-elected to office every six years. People involved in the judicial process i.e. jurors, witnesses, lawyers analyze the performance of these judges. The evaluation is placed on the Internet, and the masses can decide whom to re-elect based on their performance while in office during the re-election process.
However, these re-elections are slowly turning politicians and candidates conducting massive campaigns to win re-election to the office. The campaign money tends to undermine the independence of the judicial branch. This is because some of the amount of money comes from the precise lawyers that stand before judges expecting the judgment. Judges also might use correct but unpopular rulings to oust their fellow judges from the office. This might make judges give popular and incorrect rulings to ensure a continuation of their jobs. The re-elections take place every six years thus affect the impartiality of courts. States should form an independent commission to re-elect judges as it is done for instance in the states of California and Arizona.