Interbranch Relations

Resource Guide

To preserve both its actual and apparent impartiality in resolving disputes, the judicial branch must be more distant from the political influences of citizen majorities and special interests than are the legislative and executive branches. While the function of the courts in reviewing and interpreting the law sometimes requires decisions that are unpopular and lead to criticism by the legislature, opportunities for interbranch relations can be augmented and the conditions for conflict avoided by appropriate exercise of judicial restraint in the review of legislation and by more effective efforts to inform lawmakers about the appropriate function of the courts and the potential impact of proposed legislation.

Links to related online resources are listed below. Non-digitized publications may be borrowed from the NCSC Library; call numbers are provided.


Featured Links

Gavel to Gavel. Gavel to Gavel  helps identify trends in legislative activity as it relates to the courts.

Flango, Victor E. Role of State Supreme Court Opinions in Law Development. (2010). Future Trends in State Courts. Is the quantity of opinions written per year an appropriate gauge for measuring the performance of a state court of last resort? Research indicates that the quality of written opinions provides a more accurate assessment.

Articles and Reports

Hendershot, Marcus E. and H. Christian Tecklenburg. Controlling for District Court Judges' Preferences. (2011). Justice System Journal (Vol. 32, No. 1).

This study invokes the common space scores of executives and senators to generate a number of alternative preference point positions for U.S. District Court judges. Measures that account for cyclical changes in interbranch appointment relationships are more effective for temporally lengthy large N samples. The magnitude of these ideological effects is modest, but not substantial.

Buenger, Michael. State Courts and State Legislatures: A Funding Crisis Renewed. (2008). Future Trends in State Courts.

The 2008 economic crisis could test the relationship between the three branches of governement in terms of both funding state court operations and other programs while maintaining and adequate system of checks and balances.

Hoskins, Robin and John A. Martin. Immigration, Cultural Competency, and the Courts - A Trial Court's Perspective. (2008). Future Trends in State Courts.

Ongoing immigration to the United States, along with increasing home-grown demographic diversity within out society, have dramatically increased the need for courts to become more culturally competent and to address the complicated interplay among federal, state, and local immigration law, policy, and practice.

Green, J. Michael. A Constitutional Crisis Averted in Connecticut. (2008). Justice System Journal (Vol. 29, No. 1).

Legal notes examining a question of seperation of power between the Connecticut General Assembly and the Connecticut Supreme Court.

Dobkin, Donald S. Court Stripping and Limitations on Judicial Review of Immigration. (2007). Justice System Journal (Vol. 28, No. 1).

This article examines the legislative acts aimed at limiting judicial review of immigration cases and the resulting separation-of-power issues.

Hall, Daniel J.,Robert W. Tobin, Kenneth G. Pankey, Jr. Balancing Judicial Independence and Fiscal Accountability in Times of Economic Crisis. (Summer 2004). Judges` Journal In times of fiscal crisis, the inherent tension among the branches becomes even more pronounced as the executive and legislative branches prune judicial budgets as they see fit.
Keith, Ann L. Interbranch Relations: Judicial Legislation re. Education. (2003). Future Trends in State Courts.

This article provides examples of current attempts at judicial legislation to interpret the No Child Left Behind Act.

Rogers, James R., and Georg Vanberg. Judicial Advisory Opinions and Legislative Outcomes in Comparative Perspective. (2002). American Journal of Political Science 46: 379 This scholarly paper discusses the impacts of the judicial veto on the policy-making process, judicial review on the policy-making process, and judicial review as it applies to state legislatures.  The article includes an appendix analyzing the most likely outcomes of various situations between state legislatures and judiciaries.  
Ridge, Linda, Donna Hunzeker, Antoinette .Bonacci-Miller, and Mary Fairchild. Legislative-Judicial Relations: Seeking a New Partnership: A Guidebook for Legislative-Judicial Relations . (March 1992).

This guidebook is a part of the much larger research project "Legislative-Judicial Partnership." This report addresses issues such as the usage of legislative liaisons, judicial impact statements, long-range court planning, and educational programs.

Online Publications and Resources

Danos, Colleen. Fostering Judicial Independence in State and Federal Courts. (March 2003). Knowledge and Information Services Memorandum.

The staff memorandum provides information on American judicial independence. Many courageous and now highly praised decisions of the utmost importance to our nation, which were initially unpopular, have been made possible because of the independence of the American judiciary.

Danos, Colleen. Judicial Election and Judicial Independence Concerns: Stepping Up to the Plate. (March 2003). Knowledge and Information Services Memorandum.

This staff memorandum discuses the relation of judicial selection methods, particularly judicial elections, to judicial independence. Concerns related to attacks on judicial candidates and attempts by business and political interests to influence judicial elections are examined.

Vanberg, Georg. Legislative-Judicial Relations: A Game-Theoretic Approach to Constitutional Review. (April 2001). American Journal of Political Science 45: 346 This sixteen-page article presents "a simple game-theoretic model that provides a unified account of the multi-faceted interactions between such courts and the legislatures they are, at least in part, intended to control."  The article also discusses the importance of public confidence and transparency as necessary qualifiers to establishing a powerful judiciary.  The author uses supranational European court systems as examples in the article.
Tobin, Robert W. Creating the Judicial Branch: The Unfinished Reform. (1999).

This well-written book addresses many of the fundamental issues of state judiciaries. The book is divided into four major sections including "The Administrative Requirements of Judicial Independence", "The Obstacles to Judicial Branch Control of Internal Operations," "Creating an Independent Judicial Branch: The Court Reform Movement." and "The Next Reform Phase."

An Independent Judiciary: Report of the Commission on Separation of Powers and Judicial Independence: Executive Summary . (1997). American Bar Association This report addresses the need for Congress to establish a permanent commission called the National Commission on the Federal Courts.  The underlying problem is the fact that the federal legislature and the federal judiciary do not communicate effectively.  This short articles includes several recommendations to facilitate more productive dialogue between the legislative branch and the federal judiciary.
California State Courts Office of Governmental Affairs.  The mission of the Office of Governmental Affairs is to promote and maintain effective relations with the legislative...and executive branches of government and to present the Judicial Council's recommendations on legislative matters affecting the courts pursuant to constitutional mandate.
Hennepin County, Minnesota, Judicial Ride-Along Protocol. The Hennepin County Bar Association's website describes the program in Minnesota that allows attorneys and law students to accompany assigned judges in order to observe how a judge performs his or her duties.