Judges in Politics

January 23, 1952

Report Outline
Federal Judges and Judicial Independance
Supreme Court and Presidential Politics
Drafting of Judges for Non-Judicial Tasks
Politics in Federal Judicial Appointments

Federal Judges and Judicial Independance

Selection of nominees for the presidency in 1952 may involve debate, not only on the wisdom of sending a military man to the White House, but also on the propriety of reaching into the federal judiciary for a presidential candidate. Support of Gen. Eisenhower for the Republican nomination raises an issue repeatedly encountered in American political history. The possibility that another familiar issue—that of judges as presidential candidates—will be revived arises from suggestions that President Truman, if he does not run again, may urge the Democrats to turn to Chief Justice Vinson as a standard bearer who would be acceptable to both the northern and the southern wing of the party.

Although a number of military leaders have served as President, few judges have stepped down from the nation's high tribunals to run for that office and none has been elected. Participation in politics was not always considered inconsistent with the impartial administration of justice, but in recent times Supreme Court justices in particular have been scrupulous to avoid action calculated to promote their political preferment; some have insisted that, to keep the Court above politics, its members should never be considered available for elective office.

Threats to Maintenance of Judicial Impartiality

Objections have been leveled also against the practice of drafting judges for non-judicial tasks. President Truman evoked criticism, for example, by his recent efforts to “borrow” Judge Thomas F. Murphy from the U. S. District Court in New York for the essentially political job of heading a special inquiry into government corruption. Many persons feel that judges should not be asked to take on any temporary non-judicial assignments, whether or not political in nature, and that they should not be considered for appointment to executive posts even if willing to resign from the bench. The fear is that drafting of judges for non-judicial service may tend to stir political ambitions, to impair the ability of the courts to render impartal judgment, and to blur that separation of judicial from executive and legislative powers which was intended to insure the independence of the judiciary.

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