Over the past two years, the Federal Bar Association has issued three public statements reflecting the organization’s respect for the Rule of Law and the independence of the federal judiciary. These statements of views, drafted by the Government Relations Committee and adopted by the Board of Directors, reflect the core values of the Federal Bar Association and its respect for our constitutional democracy.
Each FBA statement concurrently responded to controversies about the federal judiciary created by Donald Trump, either during his presidential campaign or his presidency. These statements are posted on the FBA website (fedbar.org), but deserve further proclamation here in The Federal Lawyer. They continue to remain important for their relevancy and responsiveness to ongoing national developments.
Statement of the FBA Board of Directors on the Importance of an Independent Judiciary (July 2016)
An independent judiciary is central to our democracy and the preservation of public trust in the rule of law. At the same time, litigants in our courts must have the right to challenge a judge’s ruling for reasons based in fact, law, or policy. Indeed, we affirm and embrace the right of litigants to assert claims of judicial bias under applicable laws, as well as every person’s right of free speech. But we exhort all people to refrain from attacks on our judiciary based solely on ethnic, racial, religious, gender, or sexual-orientation grounds. We urge all to accord the judiciary the respect and dignity necessary for judges to conduct their constitutional responsibilities.
Statement of the FBA Board of Directors on Judicial Independence (February 2017)
Judicial independence, free of external pressure or political intimidation, lies at the foundation of our constitutional democracy. An independent judiciary needs to remain free of undue influence from the legislative and executive branches and to remain beholden only to the maintenance of the rule of law and the protection of individual rights and personal liberties. We affirm the right to challenge a judge’s ruling for reasons based in fact, law, or policy. However, when robust criticism of the federal judiciary crosses into personal attacks or intimidation, it threatens to undermine public confidence in the fairness of our courts, the constitutional checks and balances underlying our government, and the preservation of liberty.
Statement of the FBA Board of Directors on the Rule of Law (September 2018)
The rule of law is the enduring principle that all persons, institutions, and entities should be governed by and held accountable to laws that are just, publicly promulgated, equally enforced, and independently adjudicated. This is a foundational principle of our nation’s Constitution and its declaration that government derives its power from the governed to protect individual liberty.
In the United States, the Department of Justice plays a fundamental role in the equal enforcement of our nation’s laws and the preservation of public respect for the rule of law. The oath of office administered to the attorney general, as the head of the Department of Justice, and to all other employees of the Department of Justice commits them to faithfully protect the Constitution, which guarantees to every American equal justice under the law. At all times, the client of the attorney general and the attorneys within the Department of Justice remains the United States of America, not any government official, agency, party, or person.
Public confidence in the Department of Justice as faithful executors of the law rests in the assurance that its law enforcement and prosecutorial actions are grounded in facts and the law, without regard to the political party or political affiliation of the accused. Any suggestion that the Department of Justice’s actions should arise from or reach a different outcome based on partisan interests is inconsistent with a proper understanding and respect for the rule of law and public trust in its faithful enforcement.