Supporting Judges

An Independent Judiciary is Essential to the Rule of Law

The Fund for Modern Courts believes that the President’s recent unjust criticism of a federal district court judge and his disparaging comments about the review by the United States Court of Appeals  both weakens the public’s confidence in the judiciary and undermines the rule of law. This disrespect for a co-equal branch of government threatens the constitutional principles of our democracy.

An independent judiciary is essential to the rule of law, and while Modern Courts takes no position on the legal arguments asserted in this matter, we cannot stand silent about this attempt to undermine the legitimacy of a federal judge, his decision, and the appellate process.

Tradition and ethical considerations prevent judges from defending themselves from attacks, even baseless ones, about matters that are before them. Therefore, such defense must be made by all Americans who respect the Constitution, acknowledge the concept of the separation of powers and believe that we are a nation of laws, not of individuals.

Although the Fund for Modern Courts was founded and works to improve the administration of justice in New York State, we are concerned that the recent unjust criticism by the President will encourage others to engage in the same type of conduct in our state’s courts.

We suggest that the President consider the remarks made by Chief Justice John Roberts, in his 2016 Year-End Report on the Federal Judiciary about the importance of federal district courts judges: “they deserve tremendous respect” and they serve “as the calm central presence to ensure fair process and justice for the litigants.” We stand with the Chief Justice in recognizing that “each American generation has produced selfless, patriotic, and brave individuals who have stepped forward to serve their country with distinction as federal district judges. Our Nation is justly proud of our current district judges and grateful for their service.”

Modern Courts calls upon the President to treat the judiciary with the respect that it deserves and to cease making unjustified criticisms of individual judges and the judiciary as an institution.


Victor A. Kovner, Modern Courts’ Board Chair (second from left) joins Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman (left), Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Manhattan District Attorney (and former Board member) Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., New York State Bar President Stephen Younger and Assembly Judiciary Chair Helene Weinstein as Governor David Paterson signs into law the Judicial Compensation Bill on December 10, 2010.

Statement of Victor A. Kovner, Chair of the Fund for Modern Courts, on passage of the judicial compensation commission bill:

“We congratulate Governor Paterson for placing the judicial compensation commission bill on the special legislative session agenda, and the members of the State Senate and Assembly for their overwhelming approval of that legislation.

Modern Courts has long advocated the creation of a Quadrennial Commission which will once and for all remove judicial compensation from the political process.

This Commission provides a rational solution to the problem of how to achieve equity, regularity, and objectivity in judicial compensation, and will preserve our independent, highly-qualified and diverse judiciary.”

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