Presentation on theme: "Superior Court of California, County of Sacramento The California Judges Association The Judicial Council of California."— Presentation transcript:
Superior Court of California, County of Sacramento The California Judges Association The Judicial Council of California
Four Ideals that Support Our Government 1. The Rule of Law 4. Impartial Courts & Judges 2. The Separation of Powers 3. Checks & Balances
The law regulates every person’s conduct Gives everyone the same rights Laws are not the orders of a powerful government official, like a king or dictator Ideal #1 The Rule of Law
What if umpires could make up their own rules during a game?
What if umpires could make up their own rules during a game? Umpire: Foul Ball!
Batter: What! I clearly hit it through center field and out of the park, that means that it’s a home run! How can you say it’s a foul?
Umpire: Too bad, that’s my definition of a foul.
Batter: Show me where you got your definition.
Umpire: Look, those are just my rules. I’m the umpire, deal with it.
DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE (July 4, 1776) List of ways that King George III was acting unfairly Like a bad umpire, King George ordered judges to decide cases based on his wishes, not the rule of law
CONSTITUTION (Sept. 17, 1787) Just as all sports have rules, our government has the constitution, this is the set of rules that the government must follow. The constitution strengthened the rule of law by: Allowing the courts to protect rights -Speedy jury trial, and other rights Removing governmental and popular influences from the court The constitution also separated the powers of government
Ideal # 2 The Separation of Powers Into Three Branches of Government Legislative Create the law Executive Carry out the law Judicial Interpret and apply the law
The Separation of Powers (cont.) The government’s powers are split between the three branches Each branch of government is equal in power No branch can exercise a power granted to one of the other branches
Ideal #3 Checks and Balances If one branch doesn’t agree with another branch’s decision, it can take action against that decision. Consider this joke about a president, a senator, and a judge with checks and balances.
Ideal #4 Impartial Courts & Judges Impartiality is a judge’s ability to decide cases: Only considering the law; (As an umpire would only consider the rules) Not considering personal gain, prejudices, preferences, or beliefs; (As an umpire would not call in favor of their favorite team) Without outside powers telling judges how to make decisions or run their courtrooms; (As fans and team managers can’t tell umpires how to make calls).
What if umpires knew the rules but broke them for personal reasons?
What if umpires could make up their own rules during a game? Umpire: Foul Ball!
Batter: Not again, are you blind? That was totally a home run, and this time I have the official rules to prove it.
Umpire: The rules, hah! That doesn’t matter because it’s my call.
Batter: But you have to follow the rules, you can’t just make calls for other reasons.
Umpire: Well I have some pretty good reasons, in fact I have about 2,000 green reasons that the visiting team gave me before the game.
Batter: How is that fair? You got paid by the other team to make that dumb call? No matter how I play, you’ll never let me score a run.
Judicial Personal Preferences Legislative & Executive Voters Political Party Special Interests
Courts Have the Power to Protect All Persons Equally From Abuses of Political Power Impartial judges fairly and equally administer the laws to all persons regardless of age, ethnicity, race, gender, disability, religion, or social status. They are not influenced by public opinion. Examples - Racial prejudice Religious discrimination Impartial judges fairly and equally administer the laws to all persons regardless of age, ethnicity, race, gender, disability, religion, or social status. They are not influenced by public opinion. Examples - Racial prejudice Religious discrimination
Brown v. Board of Education (1954) According to the law, until 1954 white and black children had to attend separate schools At that time most people were in favor of segregated schools The US Supreme Court decided that separate schools were unequal by nature and therefore unconstitutional
West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943) In West Virginia all students were required to salute the flag. Those who did not salute were expelled. Jehovah’s Witnesses’ beliefs forbade them from saluting the flag in this manner. The court decided that forcing this practice was unconstitutional. “The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts.” Justice Robert Jackson
The Judiciary Protects Religious Liberty “Every religious society has a right to determine for itself the times for [religious] exercises, & the objects proper for them, according to their own particular tenets; and this right can never be safer than in their own hands, where the constitution has deposited it.” -Thomas Jefferson 1808 Consider: Crèche in city hall Proposition 8
Judges are unlike other government officials They have unique duties and rules to follow
Role of Judges: Do not write the laws or express their personal preferences (Just as umpires don’t write the rule books) Interpret and apply legislation and higher court rulings whether they personally agree with the laws or not Apply the laws, even if the public does not like the laws If a law is defective, it’s the legislature’s job to fix it
The Code of Judicial Ethics Restricts Judges’ Activities Judges can’t hear cases if it appears that they might not be able to fairly judge. (Could you be fair if your friend, family member, or campaign contributor was in a case that came before you?) Judges cannot state their opinions on matters that they heard or may hear. Judges are not allowed to accept personal gifts. (Is it fair to the Yankees if an umpire accepted personal gifts from the Red Sox in an upcoming game between the two teams?)
What do you think would happen if judges were allowed to accept personal gifts?
The Third Branch of Government Threats to judicial impartiality
Hope Fighting to Protect the Courts Former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (and this PP and a growing number of organizations): “…we must be ever- vigilant against those who would strongarm the judiciary into adopting their preferred policies.”
Hope Justice Sandra Day O’Connor The founders realized there has to be someplace where being right is more important than being popular or powerful, and where fairness trumps strength. And in our country, that place is supposed to be the courtroom.
A proposed initiative (proposition) in South Dakota would allow judges to be sued or sent to jail when people disagreed with their decisions. (Would umpires do their job fairly if the fans could throw them in jail for unpopular, but correct decisions?) New Threats To Judicial Impartiality
Recently a Sacramento judge decided that civil unions between same sex partners were allowable according to the Constitution. A special interest group mounted a recall campaign within 24 hours. Higher court justices were threatened with recall as well. (Would it be fair if umpires were fired by fans for unpopular decisions?) New Threats To Judicial Impartiality Recall (Impeachment)
The constitution has protections to handle disagreement with court decisions. This doesn’t mean that judges can’t be questioned.
You have the right to appeal your case to a higher court if you are unhappy with the ruling (This can be compared to instant replay) Judges are currently subject to discipline for misconduct by the Commission on Judicial Performance What To Do If You Disagree With a Judge’s Decision or Behavior?
Why is the Rule of Law So Important?
How would you feel if a judge gave a ruling without listening to you? Has anyone ever made a decision about you without listening to your side? How did you feel and what did you want to do about it?
Legal Equality An impartial court allows all individuals equal and fair treatment under the law
What if you hit a home run, and it counts as a home run?
What if umpires could make up their own rules during a game? Umpire: Homerun!
Batter: How cool, that’s actually fair.
Umpire: Well duh. Look I’m not trying to be cool, I’m following the rules and being impartial.
Thank you for taking the time to understand the importance of impartial judges in your life
Video credits: Fairplay.org Justiceatstake.org Youthforhumanrights.org Superior Court of California County of Sacramento Communications & Community Outreach 2009 saccourt.ca.gov