I am struggling to come up with a name of a politician who has ever campaigned on the intention to reform the judiciary (not the justice system in general). Such a campaign, for instance, would promise to boost transparency, accountability, performance of judges, tune down the magnitude of discretion they have, maybe go as far as introducing sequestering of judges while they work on a case — to guard their independence and fairness, and so on.

Taxes, welfare, immigration etc. are campaigned on all the time. A judiciary reform — I've never heard of.

I presume that even if/when a politician wishes the judiciary reformed, it is no much use for him/her to campaign on that as it won't resonate with the majority of electorate: most people don't attend courtrooms often, if ever at all, so will yawn at such a campaign.

Or maybe politicians in fact rarely see any need to reform the judiciary?

So, has any politician ever campaigned on that? How did it go?

(I am interested in any country with the common law system).

  • 2
    dw.com/en/what-are-polands-controversial-judicial-reforms/… (see "Restructuring the courts")
    – Roland
    Commented Nov 1, 2022 at 14:00
  • @Roland That's a civil law jurisdiction, where the judiciary is not that callous and is much more easily marshalled than in common law.
    – Greendrake
    Commented Nov 3, 2022 at 0:39
  • 2
    The Labour Manifestos in the early 2000s had sections on the reform: it included (from memory) the constitutional changes to create a supreme court, changes to the hierarchy of judges with a different role for the Lord Chancellor etc in oversight of judicial appointment, and changes in sentencing powers, giving judges less discretion to give lenient sentences. But the full manifesto doesn't seem to be online.
    – James K
    Commented Nov 3, 2022 at 7:37
  • Labour's manifestos seem to be here (in a not very readable format): 1997, 2001, I can't see much about reform of the judiciary though there is mention of sentencing in 1997.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Nov 3, 2022 at 10:36
  • yes, the 2001 manifesto is incomplete, and is missing section 4 on "crime and communities"
    – James K
    Commented Nov 3, 2022 at 18:19

2 Answers 2


Happens all the time in the United States (Specifically in states where Judges are elected to the bench rather than appointed.).

It's not often seen at the Federal level because Federal Judges are appointed by the President of the United States to a lifetime appointment (Though many retire before die in office) when a vacancy opens up. Because the Judiciary is a sperate but equal branch of Government, there tends to be little that can be done beyond the appointment process. By and large, Judges tend to reflect the ideals of the President who nominates them (It's especially apparent when the matter is over an issue that is splitting the party internally (Both Democrats and Republicans have wings inside their party that don't agree with other wings on certain issues, since both parties are Big Tents in terms of politics, they can generally agree on a 30,000 foot overview but it's the finer details where the party splits... And a President may frequently be criticized by favorable talking heads because he's right on policy focus but terrible at execution.).

Generally, congress people will speak more of judicial reform than Presidents, since they hold more ability to restructure the courts. The only federal court mandated by the Constitution is the Supreme Court of the United States. All lower federal circuit courts are created by an act of congress, and judicial pay rates are similarly set by Congress. Additionally, the courts can only interpret the law, they can't create law. Case Law comes from the concept of Common Law that holds that all things being equal, a judge must rule on similar cases the same way if they are lower on the appellant system than the ruling regardless of personal feeling if the ruling is wrong. Congress can "reform rulings" by changing the relevant law so that it clarifies the intent of the law in the situation. This includes amending the Constitution when the courts rule a law unconstitutional (Such as the 13th amendment, which by banning slavery, overturned several decisions of SCOTUS that were in favor of slave owners). In practice, it's normally easier to amend the law so that the parts that are unconstitutional are brought into compliance (so long as the entire law isn't declared unconstitutional).

  • Why the president, the executive branch, can nominate fed judges (the judicial branch) but not senators and representatives(the legislative branch)? Just curious.
    – r13
    Commented Nov 3, 2022 at 16:36
  • @r13 In the United States, the President nominates a candidate to fill an open seat on the bench, but they only get the position if the Senate approves of the nominee in their "Advise and Consent" role. The House gets their checks on the Judiciary with the "Power of the Purse" which means that they are the people who have to write the bill that pays for the Judiciary.
    – hszmv
    Commented Nov 3, 2022 at 16:45
  • 1
    @r13 Additionally, U.S. Federal Judges are impeachable officers under the Constitution, which both Houses have a role in doing. In fact of all the people who have been convicted of impeachable offenses, 100% of them are Judges.
    – hszmv
    Commented Nov 3, 2022 at 16:49
  • @hszmy It is still not clear. Why the president, senator, and representative are elected but fed and supreme court judges are nominated and confirmed through a process controlled by another two branches that are their equal?
    – r13
    Commented Nov 3, 2022 at 16:59
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    @r13 At the time of the drafting of the United States government, the drafters were highly concerned with preventing a "Tyranny of the Majority" and tried to limit directly electing government officials (Until 1914, U.S. the only directly elected federal position was your House Representative. Prior to that, Senators were elected by the state legislature and an electoral college system is still in place for the President (And prior to 1888, some states would assign electors based on vote in the state legislature).
    – hszmv
    Commented Nov 4, 2022 at 11:52

There are plenty of political campaigns that promise to change the amount of discretion that judges have. Look up anything relating to "mandatory minimum sentences", either imposing them or removing them.

A particular examples is the various Three Strikes Laws from the US.

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