On March 9, 2006, retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor issued an ominous warning about attacks on judicial independence: “it takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls into dictatorship, but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings.”
There have been continuing verbal attacks against the courts. Some have called for the impeachment of judges with whose rulings they disagree. Others have attempted to intimidate or threaten judges who make controversial decisions. Some studies show that public approval of the courts may be waning. Several ballot measures put to the voters on November 7th were intended to “rein in” judges in various ways.
Against this backdrop, our panel will consider Justice O’Connor’s warning and the current attacks on the courts. Do these attacks threaten to undermine judicial independence? Is something new happening in the courts warranting the negative attention, or are the courts being targeted for other reasons? What, if anything, can and should be done to respond to these attacks? Our panel, representative of a range of viewpoints, will consider these questions and more.
Hon. Bob Barr, former U.S. Representative, 1995-2003
Barry Friedman, Jacob D. Fuchsberg Professor of Law, New York University School of Law
Dahlia Lithwick, Senior Editor, Slate.com
Caprice Roberts, Associate Professor of Law, West Virginia College of Law
Melody Barnes, Executive Vice President for Policy, Center for American Progress