Judicial independence

Separation of powers has again become a current issue of some controversy concerning debates about judicial independence and political efforts to increase the accountability of judges for the quality of their work, avoiding conflicts of interest, and charges that some judges allegedly disregard procedural rules, statutes, and higher court precedents. It is said[by whom?] on one side of this debate that separation of powers means that powers are shared among different branches; no one branch may act unilaterally on issues (other than perhaps minor questions), but must obtain some form of agreement across branches. That is, it is argued that "checks and balances" apply to the Judicial branch as well as to the other branches. It is said[by whom?] on the other side of this debate that separation of powers means that the Judiciary is independent and untouchable within the Judiciaries' sphere. In this view, separation of powers means that the Judiciary alone holds all powers relative to the Judicial function, and that the Legislative and Executive branches may not interfere in any aspect of the Judicial branch. An example of the first view is the regulation of attorneys and judges, and the establishment of rules for the conduct of the courts, by the Congress and in the states the legislatures. Although in practice these matters are delegated to the Supreme Court, the Congress holds these powers and delegates them to the Supreme Court only for convenie ce in light of the Supreme Court's expertise, but can withdraw that delegation at any time. An example of the second view at the State level is found in the view of the Florida Supreme Court, that only the Florida Supreme Court may license and regulate attorneys appearing before the courts of Florida, and only the Florida Supreme Court may set rules for procedures in the Florida courts. The State of New Hampshire also follows this system. Judicial independence is the idea that the judiciary needs to be kept away from the other branches of government. That is, courts should not be subject to improper influence from the other branches of government, or from private or partisan interests. Different countries deal with the idea of judicial independence through different means of judicial selection, or choosing judges. One way to promote judicial independence is by granting life tenure or long tenure for judges, which ideally frees them to decide cases and make rulings according to the rule of law and judicial discretion, even if those decisions are politically unpopular or opposed by powerful interests. In some countries, the ability of the judiciary to check the legislature is enhanced by the power of judicial review. This power can be used, for example, by mandating certain action when the judiciary perceives that a branch of government is refusing to perform a constitutional duty, or by declaring laws passed by the legislature unconstitutional.