Corruption and Judicial Independence
Should our democracy elect judges?
Blind Justice: Justice that is fair because it is neutral and objective. It weighs facts and law, but is “blind” to the relative wealth, status, or identity of those facing judgment. This concept comes from ancient Rome, where the goddess of justice, Justitia, was often depicted holding a set of scales and wearing a blindfold. But what happens when the system of justice is corrupted by outside influences? As John Wester observes, “All it takes is one bad judge to create enormous human misery.”
Corruption and Judicial Independence Lesson:
The nature of democracy changes and grows along with its citizenry, but it’s always based on principles that help citizens modify, uphold, and strengthen their democracy. Visit the DDA Democratic Principles and Activities page to learn more about the principles underlying democracy and gain access to activities that help students understand the complexity of democracy.
We’ve identified some democratic principles addressed in this lesson “Should our democracy elect judges?” What principles might you add to the list below?
- Control of the Abuse of Power
Control of the Abuse of Power
One of the most common abuses of power is corruption, which occurs when government officials use public funds for their own benefit or they exercise power in an illegal way. To protect against these abuses, democratic governments are often structured to limit the powers of government offices and the people who work for them. For example, the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of government have distinct functions and can “check and balance” the powers of other branches. In addition, independent agencies can investigate and impartial courts can punish government leaders and employees who abuse power.
- Independent Judiciary
- Independent Judiciary
In democracies courts and the judicial system are impartial. Judges and the judiciary branch must be free to act without influence or control from the executive and legislative branches of government. They should also not be corrupt or obligated to influential individuals, businesses, or political groups. These ideas are related to the rule of law and to controlling the abuse of power. An independent judiciary is essential to a just and fair legal system.
- The Rule of Law
- The Rule of Law
In a democracy no one is above the law—not even a king, elected president, police officer, or member of the military. Everyone must obey the law and will be held accountable if they violate it. Democracy also insists that laws are equally, fairly, and consistently enforced.
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