The Independence of Judicial Conscience

Journal of Christian Legal Thought, Vol. 9, No. 2, 2019

6 Pages Posted: 5 Nov 2019

See all articles by Barry W. Bussey

Barry W. Bussey

University of Notre Dame Australia - School of Law

Date Written: August 9, 2019


Recent controversies over the appointment of judges highlight a fascination with the personal and moral opinions of those who hold judicial office. Competence and character are no longer the sole criteria for evaluating a judicial nominee; candidates face a climate which demands they have the “correct” moral opinions on fundamental human rights issues. Those issues include abortion, marriage, and the euphemistically-termed Medical Assistance in Dying (MAiD).

Given the importance of the judicial role, the stakes are high. A judge embodies, in one person, all that defines a liberal democratic state. This is a person who is called upon not only to efficiently make complex decisions but to do so competently and fairly. The judge represents impartiality—the view that both the plaintiff and the defendant, the prosecutor and the accused, will have a fair, unbiased arbiter who can neither be bought nor sold but has the courage to make the right and proper decision.

I contend that upholding the judicial conscience is a democratic imperative, essential to respecting the individual dignity of the judge, and to maintaining the fundamental rights and freedoms that distinguish a liberal democracy from a dictatorship.

Keywords: judicial independence, religious conscience, religious liberty, law and religion

JEL Classification: Z12

Suggested Citation

Bussey, Barry Winston, The Independence of Judicial Conscience (August 9, 2019). Journal of Christian Legal Thought, Vol. 9, No. 2, 2019, Available at SSRN:

Barry Winston Bussey (Contact Author)

University of Notre Dame Australia - School of Law ( email )

Sydney Campus, New South Wales

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