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Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2019

Publication Citation

94 Indiana Law Journal Supplement 13 (2019)

Abstract

This Note will be primarily divided into three main sections. Part I of this Note will begin by discussing the importance of judicial independence in modern society and the role of elected officials in shaping the public perception of the courts. Additionally, as problems of judicial legitimacy are age-old and date back to America’s founding, Part I will include a brief discussion of an early clash between President Thomas Jefferson and the courts.

Parts II and III of this Note will seek to place President Trump’s conduct towards the judicial branch within the proper historical context. Part II examines the ways in which Presidents have been able to significantly alter the makeup of the judiciary while in office. For considerations of brevity, this section will include a few illustrative examples in which Presidents have sought to alter the makeup of the courts, and each will be discussed in the context of the actions of President Trump.

Part III will explore instances of Presidents undermining the legitimacy of the judiciary by making comments about pending and past court cases, particularly using examples from more recent administrations. This Note concludes that, while President Trump’s behavior regarding the judiciary has been the subject of intense media scrutiny during his first two years in office, it is important to place his comments and actions in a historical context by looking at the examples set by past Presidents. Through this frame of analysis, this Note concludes that, although President Trump’s rhetorical attacks on the independence of the judiciary—particularly in the criminal context and in targeting individual judges—have been numerous and unprecedented, President Trump is also quietly shaping the makeup of the judiciary in a way that could become even more drastic if his administration embraces a modern Court-packing plan or continues to make judicial appointments at staggering rates.

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