By Anna Harvey
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Additional resources for A Mere Machine: The Supreme Court, Congress, and American Democracy
Although these expectations seem to ﬂy in the face of the widely repeated conventional wisdom, this is not the ﬁrst time they have been put to paper. Thomas Jefferson made essentially the same conditional prediction in a letter to a colleague in 1816, writing that, “where judges were named and removable at the will of an hereditary executive, from which branch most misrule was feared, and has ﬂowed, it was a great point gained, by ﬁxing them for life, to make them independent of that executive.
The evidence reported here also does not include any decisions from “inferior” federal courts, those established by federal statute. The judges sitting on these courts are subject to the same constitutional sanctions as are the justices of the Supreme Court. In fact, they are subject to an additional sanction to which the justices are not, namely the power of elected branch majorities to dissolve their courts. Their decisions, moreover, may be appealed to the Supreme Court and thereby modiﬁed or even overruled by justices apparently deferential to elected branch preferences, as least in cases involving federal judicial review.
S. Constitution guarantees independence to its federal courts, researchers have dismissed the provisions of that constitution incentivizing judicial deference to elected branch majorities. They then have dismissed similar provisions found in other constitutions, assuming that the judges operating under these constitutions are likewise free to decide cases independently of the policymaking branches. High levels of rights protections have been attributed to what were thought to be independent courts, when those courts were perhaps in fact accountable, deferential courts.
A Mere Machine: The Supreme Court, Congress, and American Democracy by Anna Harvey