Winner of the 2013 Outstanding Academic Title Award, sponsored by Choice.
The impartial administration of justice and the accountability of government officials are two of the most strongly held American values. Yet these values are often in direct conflict with one another.
At the national level, the U.S. Constitution resolves this tension in favor of judicial independence, insulating judges from the undue influence of other political institutions, interest groups, and the general public. But at the state level, debate has continued as to the proper balance between judicial independence and judicial accountability. In this volume, constitutional scholar G. Alan Tarr focuses squarely on that debate. In part, the analysis is historical: how have the reigning conceptions of judicial independence and accountability emerged, and when and how did conflict over them develop? In part, the analysis is theoretical: what is the proper understanding of judicial independence and accountability?
Tarr concludes the book by identifying the challenges to state-level judicial independence and accountability that have emerged in recent decades, assessing the solutions offered by the competing sides, and offering proposals for how to strike the appropriate balance between independence and accountability.
About the author
G. Alan Tarr is Director of the Center for State Constitutional Studies and Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Rutgers University-Camden. He is the author or editor of several books on constitutionalism and on federalism, and has lectured on these subjects in United States, Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America.
"Tarr offers a thoughtful and comprehensive analysis of the claims and counterclaims made by critics and supporters of judicial elections. . . . Tarr's book is well-crafted and should be easily accessible to legal academics, policymakers, and the broader lay public."
—Tad Daley, Political Science Quarterly
"Tarr presents an overview of the conflicting arguments surrounding state-level judiciaries and their influence in the political system. The author presents a comprehensive, critical, in-depth analysis of the arguments surrounding judicial independence and accountability within US state governments and the notable impact of judicial elections on this important debate . . . Tarr's work has long explored a criticial area within the understanding of state governments, and this study is required for both scholars and those interested in US state governments. Essential."
—J. Michael Bitzer, CHOICE
"Alan Tarr addresses one of the most dramatic contrasts between the national and (most) state governments in the United States: the strong reliance on elected judiciaries in the states. The topic is not only of genuine theoretical interest—e.g., are elected judiciaries measurably worse than appointed judiciaries of the kind we have at the national level?—but also of increasing public interest as well, given the increased willingness of angry electorates to fire judges whose opinions they do not like. Tarr has written a highly readable book that provides a plausible solution to the particular ills of elected judiciaries that does not require eliminating them."
—Sanford Levinson, author of Framed: America's 51 Constitutions and the Crisis of Governance