Opening Discussion Questions - Rule of Law
1. How does the Constitution protect the impartiality of federal judges when they have to make unpopular decisions in order to follow the rule of law?
The Founders knew that various political majorities might try to adversely affect minorities. Therefore, when they wrote Article III of the Constitution, they gave federal judges life tenure, during good behavior, to reinforce their protection from majority pressures. The Founders knew that judges would sometimes have to make unpopular decisions on some of the most controversial issues of the day and, in light of this, the Founders thought that federal judges should be isolated from political and social pressures.
2. How can majority-democratic rule be reconciled with minority rights when the judiciary acts to safeguard the rule of law?
The protection of minorities is not undemocratic. As the existence of the Bill of Rights illustrates, the majority has voluntarily agreed to limit majority rule in certain areas because some rights are so cherished that, barring a Constitutional amendment, they should not be changed, even by majority vote. Moreover, the federal courts are limited by the text of the Constitution and applicable laws. Judges must look to the Constitution and these laws to make their decisions—they are not free to impose their own personal beliefs on others, but must always have a legal basis for their decisions.