Vanderbilt Law Review


Tara L. Grove

First Page



We hold certain truths of the federal judiciary to be self-evident. Article III judges are entitled to life tenure and salary protections, and cannot be removed outside the impeachment process.' Political actors must comply with federal court orders. And "packing" the Supreme Court is wrong. These assumptions are so deeply ingrained in our public consciousness that it rarely occurs to anyone to question them. But a closer look reveals that these "truths" are neither self- evident nor necessary implications of our constitutional text, structure, and history. Instead, these rules of our federal judiciary have emerged over time through the rough and tumble of the political process. At one time, prominent government officials insisted that Article III judges could be terminated outside the impeachment process; that political actors could violate federal court orders; and that court packing was an appropriate and even desirable method of dealing with a recalcitrant Supreme Court. Yet over time, these practices became not only disfavored but utterly out of bounds. By firmly rejecting these methods of attacking the federal judiciary, political actors have built what I call conventions of judicial independence.