#1230 Judgment

The constitution ... is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary, which they may twist, and shape into any form they please.
— Thomas Jefferson to Spencer Roane, 1819

Thomas Jefferson had a unique and slightly odd view of the proper place of the judicial branch in America. He thought of judicial independence as both a strength and a weakness of our system: you want judges that are independent of popular factionalism but you want them to be accountable to the sovereign, to the American people. Jefferson, as portrayed by Clay S. Jenkinson, discusses his concept of judicial balance, his lifelong displeasure with the Supreme Court, and some of the changes that he thinks should be made. He said of life-tenured judges, 'Few die and none resign.'

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Show Notes

Thomas Jefferson, as portrayed by Clay:

If you wanted judicial veto, you would have to erect some Olympian body of perfect judicial masters who never could be swayed by self interest or personal prejudices. That has never been the case. The Romans understood this. The Romans said, 'Yes, we need guardians. But who will protect us from our guardians?'

Further Reading:


Good News for America

From Clay:

I feel that it is time to swing the pendulum back towards Mr. Jefferson's view that it is not the Senate that appoints judicial officers, but the victorious President of the United States. What the Republican Senate did to Merrick Garland was, in my opinion, obscene and unconscionable. I hope the Democrats in the Senate have behaved more responsibly towards nominee Gorsuch. Jefferson objected strenuously when his predecessor, John Adams, packed the federal court system in the very last days of his administration, with high Federalists who disliked Jefferson politically and personally and who made it their mission to prevent him from making any radical adjustments to the American republic.

Read Clay's Jefferson Watch essay, "Good News for America".


What Would Jefferson Do?

 
 
There is nothing more important than judicial competence.
— Thomas Jefferson, as portrayed by Clay S. Jenkinson

Tune in to your local public radio or join the 1776 Club to hear this episode of What Would Thomas Jefferson Do?

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Becky Cawley • (208) 791-8721 • odytours.net


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