Judge Smails.

An Annenberg Public Policy Center survey found in 2006 that 69 percent of respondents said judges who make an "unpopular ruling" should face losing their jobs.

The question asked "[h]ow important do you think it is to be able to impeach or remove a judge from office if the judge makes an unpopular ruling — essential, very important but not essential, somewhat important, or not too important?"  Twenty-one percent answered "somewhat important", 30 said "very", and 18 replied "essential".

Blawgletter notes that the phraseology implies a role for impeachment as corrective for wayward magistrates — at least the ones who flout the popular will.  Members of the legal profession know, of course, that judicial independence means nothing if it doesn’t mean freedom to rule according to law and facts without fear of adverse personal consequences.

Learned Hand, in his 1957 Holmes Lectures at Harvard, favored a powerful judiciary that the rest of us trust to restrain itself in wielding power.  He thought that guaranteeing judges almost boundless discretion would produce the best decisions — so long, at least, as they exercised self-restraint. 

But what if they don’t restrain themselves?  Ah.  That’s the worry, isn’t it?  Which may help explain the Annenberg survey result.

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