Distinguished Justices Discuss Judicial Independence in a Polarized World
VIRGINIA BEACH, VA (November 17, 2021) – Chief Justice Jeffrey S. Bivins, J.D., Supreme Court of Tennessee, and Justice Barbara A. Jackson (Ret.), J.D., LL.M., Associate Justice, Supreme Court of North Carolina spoke to Regent University School of Law students on Monday, November 15, concerning the role of judges in an increasingly polarized nation. This event was hosted by the Federalist Society on Regent’s Virginia Beach campus and also livestreamed.
Mark Martin, J.D., LL.M., dean of the Regent University School of Law and former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of North Carolina, moderated and contributed to the panel discussion titled “Federalist 78 & Judicial Independence.”
According to Dean Martin: “Federalist Society programs like this panel on the role of judges help our students better understand the distinctive role of judges in our tripartite structure of government. We so appreciate the kind willingness of Chief Justice Bivins and Justice Jackson to contribute to this important dialogue for the benefit of our students.”
Justice Jackson, who is a senior lecturing fellow for Regent Law, shared that judicial independence was “precisely the reason” she decided to run for the North Carolina Court of Appeals in 2004. Jackson noted, “I had seen judges ruling in a manner that I didn’t think was consistent with the interests of judicial independence.”
Jackson also shared that in 2018, party politics and changes in judicial primaries resulted in the loss of her reelection bid after facing two candidates in the general election. In this real-life example of maintaining judicial independence in a polarized era, Jackson squared off in her election with one Democrat opponent and one Republican opponent—three candidates in a general election contest due to a change in law by the legislature.
Chief Justice Bivens, also a senior lecturing fellow for Regent Law, discussed the judicial branch and the responsibility of “interpreting laws in good faith.” He spoke about the importance of checks and balances and how this system, designed to ensure a fair proportion of power, helps no one branch attain too much power. The idea of too much power is also one reason he warns against stacking the court.
Bevins gave an example of how judicial independence works as it should when constitutional prudence is applied. He shared how he, a Republican, and a fellow justice, a Democrat—whom he declared a dear friend—found common ground in the law and their friendship. “Out of the 250-plus opinions together, we only disagreed on seven cases.”
To learn more about Regent Law, visit https://www.regent.edu/school-of-law/.
About Regent University
Founded in 1977, Regent University is America’s premier Christian university with more than 11,000 students studying on its 70-acre campus in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and online around the world. The university offers associate, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in more than 150 areas of study including business, communication and the arts, counseling, cybersecurity, divinity, education, government, law, leadership, nursing, healthcare, and psychology. Regent University is ranked the #1 Best Accredited Online College in the United States (Study.com, 2020), the #1 Safest College Campus in Virginia (YourLocalSecurity, 2021), and the #1 Best Online Bachelor’s Program in Virginia for nine years in a row (U.S. News & World Report, 2021).
About Regent University
Regent Law’s more than 4,465 graduates practice law in all 50 states and over 20 countries and include 38 currently sitting judges. The School of Law is currently ranked 22nd in the nation for obtaining judicial clerkships and ranked 20th in the nation for Ultimate Bar Passage in 2019. The school offers the Juris Doctor (J.D.) in three-year and part-time formats, an online M.A. in Law, an online M.A. in Financial Planning & Law, an on-campus and online LL.M. in Human Rights, and an on-campus and online LL.M. in American Legal Studies.