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Book cover: Studies in Law, Politics, and Society

Studies in Law, Politics, and Society

ISSN: 1059-4337
Series editor(s): Professor Austin Sarat

Subject Area: Sociology and Public Policy

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Kentucky's Constitutional Crisis and the Many Meanings of Judicial Independence


Document Information:
Title:Kentucky's Constitutional Crisis and the Many Meanings of Judicial Independence
Author(s):Emily Zackin
Volume:58 Editor(s): Austin Sarat ISBN: 978-1-78052-870-0 eISBN: 978-1-78052-871-7
Citation:Emily Zackin (2012), Kentucky's Constitutional Crisis and the Many Meanings of Judicial Independence, in Austin Sarat (ed.) Special Issue: The Discourse of Judging (Studies in Law, Politics, and Society, Volume 58), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp.73-99
DOI:10.1108/S1059-4337(2012)0000058007 (Permanent URL)
Publisher:Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article type:Chapter Item
Abstract:One of the most dramatic controversies over judicial independence in the United States occurred at the state level, in antebellum Kentucky, when two entirely different state high courts remained in operation, each claiming to be the only legitimate tribunal. This chapter describes Kentucky's two-court crisis, but focuses primarily on the constitutional convention of 1849, which followed it. Through the lens of modern scholarship about judicial independence, the lessons that antebellum Kentuckians drew from their own history seem quite counterintuitive. They did not view their project of judicial design as a matter of balancing judicial independence with accountability, a task that many modern scholars of American politics have posited as the central problem of judicial design. Instead, Kentucky's constitutional convention sought to structure an institution that would allow the state's courts to respond to popular sentiment without compromising their independence. Thus, these debates suggest frameworks for understanding judicial independence that do not pit independence against judicial accountability or popular politics, but attempt to discern which forms of politics threaten the independence of courts, and which forms may not.

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