Restrictions on Political Activity by Judges in Japan and the United States: The Cases of Judge Teranishi and Justice Sanders
Washington University Global Studies Law Review, Vol. 8, No. 2, Pp. 285-302, 2009
19 Pages Posted: 5 Mar 2015
Date Written: January 1, 2009
In the late 1990s, similar dramas relating to political activity by judges were playing out on opposite sides of the Pacific. A Japanese decision concerned Teranishi Kazushi, an assistant judge of the Sendai District Court, and an American decision related to Richard Sanders, a newly sworn-in justice of the Washington State Supreme Court. Both attended gatherings with distinctly political agendas. Both made brief remarks implying, but never directly stating, their support for the agendas presented. Both were censured for having engaged in impermissible political activity. Both appealed those censures, ultimately as far as the Grand Bench of the Supreme Court of Japan and the Washington State Supreme Court, respectively. The decisions examined nearly the same set of factors and followed similar reasoning.
But the final outcomes were different. In a ten-to-five decision, the Japanese Supreme Court upheld Teranishi's censure, but the Washington State Supreme Court unanimously overturned Sanders' censure.
This Essay begins by setting out the basic facts of the two cases. After briefly examining the respective outcomes and legal reasoning, the Essay proceeds to a comparative examination of the procedures and the basic stance of the two systems.
Keywords: judges, judicial conduct, judicial ethics, political movements, political activity, judicial selection, judicial discipline
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