Monday, July 13, 2020
Hawai'i Free Press

Current Articles | Archives

Sunday, May 12, 2019
A Threat to Judicial Independence
By Tom Yamachika @ 5:00 AM :: 1968 Views :: Ethics, Judiciary

A Threat to Judicial Independence

by Tom Yamachika, President Tax Foundation Hawaii

When we learn about our three branches of government, we’re usually told that the legislative branch makes the laws, the executive branch carries them out, and the judiciary branch interprets them. Each branch serves as a check and balance on the other two.

The legislative branch also has the power to raise money, for example by imposing taxes, and the power to spend it. It’s been written that such power is with this branch primarily because it’s most directly accountable to the people. Each state legislator must run for office either every two or every four years. Most in the executive branch and the judiciary are spared that ordeal.

With the power to spend money comes the power to place conditions upon its use. The legislature might not have the power to tell the executive branch what to do directly, for example, but it could certainly say that a particular agency shall do X, or shall not do Y, if it wants to see legislatively appropriated dollars flow into its coffers.

Against that backdrop is a very debate-worthy comment from one powerful senator at the end of the 2018 session. He described a “tension” between the legislative and judicial branches of government:

We also had some tension with the judiciary. That was very healthy as well. They did some rulings that we thought were stepping into the legislative arena, they were trying to legislate from the bench. We control the purse strings, so we said no to a lot of their money. They reversed some of their decisions. We gave them some money. So the tension worked.

--Civil Cafe: Legislative Wrap-Up 2018 Panel Discussion 23:10-23:34 (May 2, 2018).

In past articles we at the Foundation often have urged our legislators to use their power of the purse to set priorities for where we are going as a society. The state has a limited amount of hard-earned taxpayer dollars, and the legislature is there to make sure that the dollars they collect are spent wisely for our collective benefit.

In other states, this kind of tension has played out in the public arena, with observers scratching their heads and with the media having a field day. In New York in 1991, for example, Governor Cuomo slashed the judiciary’s budget and Chief Justice Wachtler sued, eventually resulting in a settlement. A similar spectacle occurred in Illinois in 2003, where the justices ordered the government to pay salary increases that its governor vetoed.

What the Hawaii Senator referred to, however, is not a question of finding the wisest use of scarce taxpayer funds. It was an attempt, and a successful one if we take the speaker at his word, to use that power to influence the content of judicial decisions. “Justice is blind,” we are told, meaning that justice should be applied without regard to money, power, or other status. If money — especially our own money — is used to skew or bend the justice we deliver here in Hawaii, then our justice is tainted.

Certainly, the Legislature and the Judiciary have their respective jobs to do and there is some merit to slapping down one branch that has entered the other’s kuleana. Legislating from the bench isn’t legitimate either; that’s why the courts have a “political question doctrine” that says policy issues for which no discernible standards in law exist are not issues for court resolution but are to be left to the legislature. What happens, though, if the judiciary and the legislature disagree on what questions are political and which are judicial? Do we let the courts decide, or should the legislature be allowed to take matters into its own hands by pulling the purse strings?


TEXT "follow HawaiiFreePress" to 40404

Register to Vote


808 Silent Majority

808 State Update AM940


ACA Signups Hawaii



Alliance Defending Freedom

Aloha Life Advocates

Aloha Pregnancy Care Center

American Council of Trustees and Alumni

American Mothers of Hawaii



Antonio Gramsci Reading List

A Place for Women in Waipio

Astronomy Hawaii

Audit The Rail

Ballotpedia Hawaii

Better Hawaii 

Blaisdell Memorial Project

Broken Trust 

Build More Hawaiian Homes Working Group

CAFR Hawaii

Castaway Conservative

Children's Alliance Hawaii

Children's Rights Institute

Christian Homeschoolers of Hawaii

Citizens for Recall

Cliff Slater's Second Opinion

Coffee Break

CSIS Pacific Forum

DAR Hawaii

DVids Hawaii

E Hana Kakou Kelii Akina

E Māua Ola i Moku o Keawe

Farmers For Choice Hawaii


Fix Oahu!

Follow the Money Hawaii

Frank in Hawaii

Front Page Magazine

Frontline: The Fixers

Genetic Literacy Project

Get Off Your Butts!

God, Freedom, America

Grassroot Institute

Hawaii Aganst Assisted Suicide

Hawaii Aquarium Fish Report

Hawaii Aviation Preservation Society

Hawaii Catholic TV

Hawaii Christian Coalition

Hawaii Cigar Association

Hawaii Coalition Against Legalized Gambling

Hawaii ConCon Info

Hawaii Credit Union Watch

Hawaii Crime Victims' Rights

Hawaii Crop Improvement Association

Hawaii Debt Clock

Hawaii Defending Marriage

Hawaii Defense Foundation

Hawaii Family Advocates

Hawaii Family Forum

Hawaii Farmers and Ranchers United

Hawaii Farmer's Daughter

Hawaii Federalist Society

Hawaii Federation of Republican Women

Hawaii Firearm Community

Hawaii Fishermen's Alliance

Hawaii Future Project

Hawaii Gathering of Eagles

Hawaii History Blog

Hawaii Homeschool Association

Hawaii Jihadi Trial

Hawaii March for Life

Hawaii Meth Project

Hawaii's Partnership for Appropriate & Compassionate Care

Hawaii Public Charter School Network

Hawaii Rifle Association

Hawaii Right to Life -- Big Island

Hawaii Right to Life -- Oahu

Hawaii Shield Law Coalition

Hawaii Shippers Council

Hawaii Smokers Alliance

Hawaii State Data Lab

Hawaii Together

Heritage Foundation

HI Coalition Against Legalized Gambling



Hiram Fong Papers

Homeschool Legal Defense Hawaii

Honolulu Homeless Crisis

Honolulu Navy League

Honolulu Traffic

Horns of Jericho Blog

House Minority Blog

House Republican Caucus YouTube


Hump Day Report

I Vote Hawaii

If Hawaii News

Imua TMT

Inouye-Kwock, NYT 1992

Inside the Nature Conservancy

Inverse Condemnation

Investigative Project on Terrorism

Iowa Meets Maui

Jackson v Abercrombie

Jihad Watch

July 4 in Hawaii

Kahle v New Hope

Kakaako Cares

Kau TEA Party

Kauai Co GOP

Keep Hawaii's Heroes


Land and Power in Hawaii

Legislative Committee Analysis Tool

Lessons in Firearm Education

Lingle Years

Malulani Foundation

Managed Care Matters -- Hawaii

Malama Pregnancy Center of Maui

Mauna Kea Recreational Users Group

Middle East Forum--The Legal Project

Mililani Conservatives for Change

Military Home Educators' Network Oahu

Missile Defense Advocacy

MIS Veterans Hawaii

Muslim Brotherhood in America

NAMI Hawaii


National Christian Foundation Hawaii

National Parents Org Hawaii

National Wind Watch

New Hawaiian

New Zeal

NFIB Hawaii News

No GMO Means No Aloha

Northwest Economic Policy Seminar

Not Dead Yet, Hawaii

Now What I Really Think

NRA-ILA Hawaii

Oahu Alternative Transport

ObamaCare Abortion Hawaii


OHA Lies

Opt Out Today

Pacific Aviation Museum

Patients Rights Council Hawaii

PEACE Hawaii

People vs Machine

Pritchett Cartoons 

Pro-GMO Hawaii


Rental by Owner Awareness Assn

Republican Party -- Hawaii State

Research Institute for Hawaii USA

Rick Hamada Show

RJ Rummel

Robotics Organizing Committee

Save Dillingham Airfield

School Choice in Hawaii

SIFE Remington

SIFE W. Oahu 

Sink the Jones Act

Smart About Marijuana--Hawaii

St Marianne Cope

State Budget Solutions Hawaii

State Policy Network

Statehood for Guam

Tax Foundation of Hawaii

The Harriet Tubman Agenda

The Long War Journal

The Real Hanabusa

Time Out Honolulu

Trustee Akina KWO Columns

Truth About Trade & Technology - Hawaii

UCC Truths

Union Members Know Your Rights

US Tax Foundation Hawaii Info

Valor in the Pacific

VAREP Honolulu

West Maui Taxpayers Association

What Natalie Thinks

Whole Life Hawaii