Breaking the Most Vulnerable Branch: Do Rising Threats to Judicial Independence Preclude Due Process in Capital Cases?

52 Pages Posted: 3 May 2016

See all articles by Stephen B. Bright

Stephen B. Bright

Southern Center for Human Rights; Yale University - Law School

Charles Baird

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

Penny J. White

University of Tennessee College of Law

George H. Kendall

NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund

Stephen Hanlon

Holland & Knight LLP

Charles Ogletree

Harvard Law School

Date Written: 1999

Abstract

We have been asked this morning to address whether the attacks on the judiciary and the efforts of politicians to change the judiciary so it will do things the politicians want it to do are affecting due process in capital cases. The answer to that question is yes.

In the many states where judges are elected, judges are vulnerable to being voted off the bench for unpopular decisions. Two members of this panel, Charles Baird and Penny White, were voted off courts because of their votes in capital cases. State judges who are subject to elections know that casting any vote in a case to grant relief to a death row inmate may literally be signing their own political death warrants. It is difficult for many judges to avoid being influenced by this.

Due process is increasingly being affected at the federal level as well, even though federal judges have tenure for life, because of the politicization of the appointment process.

Suggested Citation

Bright, Stephen B. and Baird, Charles and White, Penny J. and Kendall, George H. and Hanlon, Stephen and Ogletree, Charles, Breaking the Most Vulnerable Branch: Do Rising Threats to Judicial Independence Preclude Due Process in Capital Cases? (1999). Columbia Human Rights Law Review, Vol. 31, No. 1, 1999, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2769686

Stephen B. Bright (Contact Author)

Southern Center for Human Rights ( email )

83 Poplar St. NW
Atlanta, GA 30303-2122
United States

Yale University - Law School ( email )

127 Wall St.
New Haven, CT 06511
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.yale.edu/faculty/SBright.htm

Charles Baird

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals

201 W 14th St
Austin, TX 78701
United States

Penny J. White

University of Tennessee College of Law ( email )

1505 West Cumberland Avenue
Knoxville, TN 37996
United States

George H. Kendall

NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund ( email )

Washington, DC 04401
United States

Stephen Hanlon

Holland & Knight LLP

50 California Street
San Francisco, CA
United States

Charles Ogletree

Harvard Law School ( email )

1575 Massachusetts
Hauser 406
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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