The Bounded Independence of American Courts

New York University Law Review Online (2017)

3 Pages Posted: 19 Mar 2018

See all articles by Keith E. Whittington

Keith E. Whittington

Princeton University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: November 15, 2017


President Donald Trump's rhetoric and behavior have given rise to numerous doubts about his willingness to adhere to basic norms of the American constitutional and political system. Some have even worried that his evident disrespect for the American judiciary might lead him to defy an adverse judicial ruling and reject the significance of constitutional and legal checks on the presidency. Such worries reflect the real vulnerability of courts to political backlash and the political bounds of effective judicial independence. Even so, there is good reason to think that Trump's bark is worse than his bite when it comes to the courts. While Trump himself might not be very invested in the integrity and authority of the federal courts, political elites in both political parties are heavily invested in the preservation of a judiciary capable of articulating and enforcing limits on government power. The president would quickly find himself politically isolated were he to launch a serious assault on the courts.

Keywords: judicial independence, Donald Trump, departmentalism, Merryman

Suggested Citation

Whittington, Keith E., The Bounded Independence of American Courts (November 15, 2017). New York University Law Review Online (2017). Available at SSRN:

Keith E. Whittington (Contact Author)

Princeton University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Corwin Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544-1012
United States
609-258-3453 (Phone)
609-258-1110 (Fax)


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