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May 2005

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This article is in the news archives --- for current news go to the Third Branch News.


Attorney General Supports Federal Judges

Federal judges should be able to make decisions free from undue influence, but should not expect to be immune from scrutiny and criticism, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales told a group of chief district court judges meeting in Washington last month.

The former Texas Supreme Court justice and White House Counsel told the group he was familiar with the expectations placed on judges’ shoulders and the burdens in meeting them.

“I want you to know that I appreciate the daily—and unique—displays of courage you show in the hundreds of judicial decisions you collectively make each day,” he told the judges. “As Attorney General, I will always support you—and the integrity of the process that allows for that courage—in any way I can.” He said the foundation of that process was judicial independence. “I believe strongly, as the President does, in an independent Judiciary,” said Gonzales. “The President will continue to appoint judges who faithfully interpret the Constitution; and I will continue to support every effort to ensure that judges already in place can make decisions based solely on the law.”

The Attorney General noted, however, that “enduring criticism is a natural part of a job that declares winner and losers.”

“. . .[T]he concept of judicial independence has never meant, and should never mean that your decisions should be immune from scrutiny and criticism,” he said. “Quite the contrary, as Justice Thomas testified earlier this week in front of a House committee, federal judges ‘have lifetime appointments because [they] are suppose to be criticized.’”

But while independence provides safety from public criticism, judges also must have the physical security to do their job.

“The Department of Justice and the Marshals Service will continue to work to ensure that threats to federal judges are quickly assessed and appropriate measures are taken,” Gonzales said. “We will not accept that a judge is intimidated or threatened in any way in discharging his or her obligation to faithfully interpret the law. To that end, I have directed that a review of judicial security measures be undertaken so that the Department, as well as state and local law enforcement, can benefit from a compilation of best practices from across the nation.”

According to the Attorney General, the Department of Justice is currently studying proposed legislative alternatives regarding sentencing in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in the consolidated cases of United States v. Booker/Fanfan; and that the Administration not only is working to identify qualified judicial nominees to fill existing vacancies, it also supports the creation of additional judgeships.

For the complete remarks of Attorney General Gonzales, visit DOJ’s website at www.usdoj.gov/ag/speeches/2005/agremarksccusdj.htm.