« EelmineJätka »
for the crown to remove them upon the address of both houses of Parliament. Still, however, it was always considered that the commissions of the judges expired on the death of the king; and for the purpose of preventing this, and in order to make the
judges more effectually independent, a new statute, passed in the first year of the reign of George III., declared that the commissions of the judges should continue in force during their good behavior, notwithstanding the demise of the crown; and that such salaries as had been once granted to them should be paid in all future time, so long as their commissions should remain in force. The provision which made them removable by the crown on the address of both houses of Parliament was retained and re-enacted.?
In framing the Constitution of the United States, the objectionable feature of the English system was rejected, and its valuable provisions were retained. No one, at the stage of the proceedings which we are now examining, proposed to make the judges removable on the address of the legislature; and although at a much later period this provision was brought forward, it received the vote of a single State only. The first determination of the Convention, in committee of the whole, was, that the judges should hold their offices during good behavior; that they should receive punctually, at stated times, a fixed compensation for their services, in which no
1 Act 12 & 13 William III. ch. 2.
2 Act 1 Geo. III. ch. 23.
increase1 or diminution should be made so as to affect the persons actually in office at the time.
The appointment of the judges was by general consent, at this stage of the proceedings, vested in the Senate.
1 This was afterwards stricken out.
NOTE ON THE JUDICIAL TENURE.
THE English historians and juridical writers have not given a very satisfactory account of the purpose for which the power of removal on the address of the two Houses of Parliament was incorporated with the provision which gave the judges their commissions during good behavior. It is obvious that, if the power of removal is to be regarded as an unqualified power, to be exercised for any cause, or without the existence of any cause, the office is held during the pleasure of the legislative and executive branches of the government, and not during the official good conduct of the incumbent. In this view of it, therefore, the provision is inconsistent with the declared tenure of the commission. On the other hand, if the power of removal is not to be regarded as a limitation upon the tenure of the office, but the process of removal is to be considered as a mode in which the unfitness or incapacity of the incumbent is to be ascertained, treating it as a substitute for impeachment, to be used in cases of palpable official incapacity or unfitness, then it is not repugnant to the tenure of good behavior. In support of this view of the subject it is to be observed that, in the statute of 1 Geo. III. c. 23, the tenure of good behavior is made the leading and primary object of the enactment. The motives for it are set forth with great point and emphasis. The King is made to declare from the throne to the two houses of Parliament that he looks upon the independency and uprightness of judges as essential to the impartial administration of justice, as one of the best securities to the rights and liberties of the subject, and as most conducive to the honor of the crown. The enacting part of the statute, which follows this recital, provides anew that the judges' commissions shall be and remain in force during their good behavior, notwithstanding a demise of
the crown; and the power of removal by the King, on the address of both houses, follows this enactment as a proviso. If, therefore, a not unusual rule of construction is applied, the power embraced in the proviso should be so construed as to make its operation consistent with, and not repugnant to, the great purpose of the statute, which was to establish the tenure of good behavior. In this view the rightful exercise of the power may be confined to cases where the individual is no longer within that tenure, or, in other words, where the good behavior has ceased, or become impossible. Upon this construction the power of removal can only be rightfully exercised when a cause exists which touches the official conduct or capacity of the incumbent.
In the Constitution of the State of Massachusetts, formed in 1780, the power of removal by the executive, on the address of both houses of the legislature, was adopted from the English statutes, and it was introduced as a proviso after the tenure of good behavior had been emphatically declared for all judicial officers, just as it stands in the act of 1 Geo. III.
An objection which has sometimes been urged against the construction above suggested is, that it is narrower than the terms of the provision, and that it would not include a case where a judge may have discharged all his official duties with propriety and ability, and may yet be personally obnoxious, as, for example, on account of gross immorality. But the answer to this objection is, that the question, whether a case of official good conduct accompanied by personal immorality, or the like defect of character, was intended to be within the power of removal, must be determined on a careful view of the whole provision. The meaning and scope of the qualification of "good behavior" must be first ascertained. If it means simply that the individual is to hold his commission so long as each official duty is discharged in the manner contemplated by law, then a mere personal immorality, which has not affected or influenced the discharge of official duty, is not inconsistent with the good behavior established as the tenure of the office. But if the good behavior means, not merely that the individual shall discharge his official duties in a competent manner, with an average amount of ability, and without corruption, but that he shall so order his life and conversation as not to expose himself to a cessation of the power to act intelligently and uprightly, then there may undoubtedly be a case of personal immorality that would touch the tenure of the office. Still it must be the tenure of the office that is touched, and it must be touched by misconduct or incapacity. The phrase "good behavior" is technical, and has always had a meaning attached to it which confines it to the discharge of official duty. It is, therefore, not what men think of the individual, or how they feel
towards him, or how they regard him, but what he does or omits officially, that is to determine whether he continues to behave well in his office; and unless some conduct, or some bodily or mental condition, is adduced, that shows him to be incapable of fulfilling the duties of his station in the manner in which the law intends they shall be discharged, his tenure of good behavior is not lost.
But the naked power of removal by the other two branches of the government exists in the English constitution, and in that of the State of Massachusetts, without any declaration of the purposes or occasions to which it is to be applied; and it is not easy to reconcile it with the avowed object of judicial independence obviously embraced by the terms of the commission prescribed in both of them. The two most important native writers on the English constitution, Sir William Blackstone and Mr. Hallam, regard the provision as a restraint on the former practice of the crown, of dismissing judges when they were not sufficiently subservient to the views of the government in political prosecutions. Mr. Hallam, after referring to the provisions of the two statutes, lays down the proposition, that "no judge can be dismissed from office, except in consequence of a conviction for some offence, or the address of both houses of Parliament, which is tantamount to an act of the legislature.” (Constitutional History, III. 262.) He suggests further, that although the commissions of the judges cannot be vacated by the authority of the crown, yet that they are not wholly out of the reach of its influence. They are accessible to the hope of further promotion, to the zeal of political attachment, to the flattery of princes and ministers, and to the bias of their professional training. He therefore commends the wisdom of subjecting them in some degree to legislative control. (Ibid.) But it is not to be inferred from his remarks that that control can be rightfully exercised without the existence of a cause which affects their good behavior. On the contrary, he appears to consider that the purpose was to prevent a subserviency to the crown in their official conduct, by subjecting that conduct to legislative scrutiny. To the honor of England, it is to be remembered that, since this power was recognized, there has never been an instance in which a judge has been removed for political or party purposes.
Mr. Justice Story has taken substantially the same view of the subject. He says: The object of the act of Parliament was to secure the judges from removal at the mere pleasure of the crown; but not to render them independent of the action of Parliament. By the theory of the British constitution, every act of Parliament is supreme and omnipotent. It may change the succession to the crown, and even the very fundamentals of the constitution. It would have been absurd, therefore, to have exempt
ed the judges alone from the general jurisdiction of this supreme authority in the realm. The clause was not introduced into the act for the purpose of conferring the power on Parliament, for it could not be taken away or restricted, but simply to recognize it as a qualification of the tenure of office; so that the judges should have no right to complain of any breach of an implied contract with them, and the crown should not be deprived of the means to remove an unfit judge whenever Parliament should, in their discretion, signify their assent." (Commentaries on the Constitution, Vol. II. § 1623.)
By describing it as a "qualification of the tenure of office," the learned commentator probably did not mean that the power was intended to be recognized as a power to remove judges against whom no official misconduct or incapacity could be charged; for the context shows that he was speaking of the removal of " unfit " judges as a power that it was proper to recognize and regulate. If he intended to lay it down as a complete and actual qualification of the tenure of good behavior, it must have been upon the theory to which he refers, upon which an act of Parliament can do anything, either with or without reason. Upon this theory all the commissions of all the judges in the realm may be vacated without inquiry into their fitness or unfitness. But if the true view of the subject is, that the King's commission, which runs quamdiu se bene gesserit, cannot be determined when the crown alone decides that the good behavior has ceased, or become impracticable, but may be determined when the whole legislative power has so decided, then in one sense it is a qualification of the commission; because the latter emanates from the crown, but after it has issued, it is to be superintended by Parliament and the crown.
When we turn to our American constitutions, all embarrassment arising from the English theory of the omnipotence of the legislative department vanishes In our systems of government the people alone possess supreme power. The legislature is but the organ of their will for certain specific and limited purposes, which are carefully defined in a written constitution; and no power that is not plainly confided by the constitution to the legislative and executive departments of the government can be exercised by them. Under every American constitution, therefore, which has conferred upon the executive power to remove a judge upon the address of the two houses of the legislature, the question whether that power extends to any cases but those of official misconduct or incapacity must be determined by a careful consideration of the position which that constitution assigns to the judiciary. If, as is the case, for example, under the Constitution of the State of Massachusetts, there is a clear intention manifest to make the judiciary independent of the