If Judges Were Angels, Would Lifetime Tenure Be Necessary?

January 11th, 2010

I am finishing up the lesson plans for the Federal Courts class I am teaching with Judge Gibson, and I came across two quotes from the Federalist, and Anti-Federalist, that made me pause for a moment.


“There is no power above them [federal judges], to controul any of their decisions. There is no authority that can remove them, and they cannot be controuled by the laws of the legislature. In short, they are independent of the people, of the legislature, and of every power under heaven. Men placed in this situation will generally soon feel themselves independent of heaven itselfBrutus XV:

“If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.”  Federalist 51

Interesting juxtaposition of Federalist and Anti-Federalist invocation of heaven, angels, and independence.