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Gonzales highlights 'institutional limitations' of judiciary in policy matters

[JURIST] US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales [official profile; JURIST news archive] told a gathering of legal scholars Friday that the Constitution "provides the courts with relatively few tools" to review presidential decisions about the military and foreign policy in wartime and cautioned judges against "supplement[ing] those tools based on their own personal views." Speaking to the Fair and Independent Courts conference [website] at Georgetown University, Gonzales said [prepared remarks; recorded video]:

As a consequence of the independence that the Constitution's Framers provided, federal judges are relatively unaccountable for their decisions. This is why it is so important that judges understand their role in our constitutional democracy and hold themselves accountable to it. When the Constitutional text demands an unpopular result, judges cannot shirk from their responsibilities. They might be criticized; but that's America. In addition, respectfully, when courts issue decisions that overturn longstanding traditions or policies without proper support in text or precedent, they cannot - and should not - be shielded from criticism. A proper sense of judicial humility requires judges to keep in mind the institutional limitations of the judiciary and the duties expressly assigned by the Constitution to the more politically accountable branches.
Although Gonzales did not discuss specific cases, his remarks could be interpreted as referring to adverse federal court decisions regarding the Bush administration's establishment of military commissions to try terrorism suspects and its use of warrantless domestic surveillance [JURIST news archives].

Earlier this week, retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor [JURIST news archive], who also addressed the Georgetown conference [PDF text; recorded video], warned against growing efforts at "judicial intimidation" in the United States [JURIST report]. AP has more.

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