Why Do Federal Judges Have Life Tenure?

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The Federal Judicial Center states that federal judges have life tenure to deter intimidation when making unpopular decisions and cite Gregg v. Georgia as an example. In this case, the Supreme Court ruled that federal and state governments could impose the death penalty; this stance went against popular opinion.

Section 1 in Article III of the Constitution orders that judges in supreme and inferior courts receive life tenure and unreduced salaries. This constitutional protection only applies to judges that conduct themselves well, says the Federal Judicial Center.

Additional safeguards to ensure ethical behavior require that judges meet standards laid out in the Code of Conduct for United States Judges. Judges must withdraw from a case if there is cause for bias towards one side over another, such as a case involving a close relative or a financial interest. In addition, judges must file annual financial disclosure forms that are available to the public. Lastly, judges are forbidden to give speeches backing political candidates or to request donations for civic organizations. These are a few conditions of federal judgeship stated by the Federal Judicial Center.

When federal judges retire from full-time service, they become senior judges and are eligible to earn full salaries and hear cases; however, they usually have a reduced caseload, according to the Federal Judicial Center.