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Diamond in a Democracy: An Independent, Accountable Judiciary

Denham, Susan
June 4, 2015

Source: (2001) Judicial Review. 5(1): 31-66.

The issue of judicial accountability must be considered in tandem with that of judicial independence. The independence of the judiciary is a right of the people and a duty of the judiciary. The independence of the judiciary exists in order that a litigant may be confident of receiving impartial justice. The power of the judiciary rests on this confidence. It is of great importance to society that the independence of the judiciary be protected during these transforming times. Historically, the development of judicial independence shows a growing freedom from political and executive control. Judicial separateness and independence from other governmental institutions evolved around 1701. The context of judicial independence revolves around the ideas of democracy, separation of powers, respect, and rule of law. The changes in the work of judges over the last few decades have fueled discussion on the issue of more accountability. These changes include the volume of work, complexity of litigation, judicial review, judicial activism, human rights, and restorative justice. The changes in society also have affected the role of judges, such as new technology and the information revolution. The concept of judicial independence has two aspects: institutional independence and individual independence. Throughout the world the issue of further judicial accountability is being considered. Some jurisdictions, such as Australia, South Africa, and Ireland, are analyzing the appropriate process to introduce modern systems. Judges should drive change from within the judiciary and include lay people in the process. The judiciary should have a body within which to establish and consider ethical principles and hear complaints of judicial conduct. Judicial independence is the jewel of democracy and should be guarded for the benefit of the people it serves. Abstract courtesy of National Criminal Justice Reference Service,


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