Respecting Judicial Independence and the Rule of Law

I recently had the honor of speaking at the investiture of Hon. Mark S. Norris at the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee in Memphis. It was such a privilege to share the stage with dignitaries such as Governor Bill Haslam, Senator Lamar Alexander, Justice Holly Kirby, and many others. While I was sitting on the stage with all of these individuals, one part of an executive branch of government, another part of a legislative branch, and the third part of a judicial branch, I started to think about what an important role the judiciary plays in our society.

In recent years, it seems as though attacks on the judiciary have increased, while the public’s understanding of the role of the judiciary has dwindled. Our judiciary is increasingly facing criticism at both the state and federal levels. Judicial independence is a fundamental principle of our democracy. The independence of the judiciary must not ever be up for negotiation, because an independent judiciary protects all citizens. For centuries, our society has relied on fair, neutral and independent courts to prevent government overreach and to maintain constitutional rights without regard to the politics of the other government branches. A system of impartial courts provides an independent body to interpret the fairness of laws created by the executive and legislative branches. This separation of powers into equal branches of the government, enshrined centuries ago when this country was founded, is especially relevant today.

The concept of judicial independence and the rule of law are not partisan issues. These are issues of paramount importance to all citizens, and especially to all lawyers. The judiciary is limited from publicly defending itself due to constraints placed on it by the applicable rules of judicial conduct. Judges are limited in their ability to publicly defend themselves from criticism at the time when it is most relevant for them to do so, which is in the midst of a controversial issue. Our profession has both a duty and an interest to advocate for judicial independence when judges and the judicial system are facing attack. If we fail to defend the principle of judicial independence when it is under attack, we risk an unwanted erosion of the rule of law.

The average member of the public does not usually understand how judicial independence helps to safeguard the rule of law. It is up to our profession to explain the significance of a separate judicial branch being free from partisan pressure. It is a critical time for us as lawyers, and our association, to remain committed to protecting the independence of the judiciary at all costs. During this time where the judicial system is increasingly under attack, an organized bar association can step in to directly and vigorously address the issue and defend the judiciary.

The Tennessee Bar Association is not a partisan organization. In defending the independence of the judiciary, the TBA must remain non-partisan in all respects. After all, regardless of your political views, protection for the rule of law is not a partisan issue. Likewise, respect for the independence and authority of the judiciary and the proper separation of powers are not partisan issues. Judicial independence is indispensable to the rule of law and the rule of law is indispensable to all of us. Our constitutional democracy is depending on us.

Pannu’s Pairings:

The Loire Valley
France’s Loire Valley, stretching from Nantes on the Atlantic Coast to Orléans, only 1.5 hours south of Paris, is home to a wide array of grape varietals and thousands of wine producers. The Pays Nantais region on the Atlantic coast of Brittany is known for the Muscadet appellation, the Saumur region is known for its eponymous Saumur appellation, the Touraine region is known for the Bourgueil, Chinon and Vouvray appellations, and the Centre-Loire region is known for the Pouilly-Fumé appellation. However, this article will focus on the Sancerre and Anjou appellations.

Sancerre. The Sancerre appellation, located in Centre-Loire, is home to the best Sauvignan Blanc in the world. It is located on the left bank of the Loire River and its vineyards blanket a series of hillsides. The nose provides citrus fruit and mild grassy or herbal notes, while on the palate you will find citrus fruit, minerality, and its best-known feature, crisp acidity. Some of my favorite producers in this region are Alphonse Mellot, Henri Bourgeois and Edmond Vatan.
Food Pairings: goat cheese and shellfish.

Anjou. The Anjou appellation has yet to gain widespread popularity in the United States market but is home to some of my favorite drinking red wines. Anjou is also home to significant white wine production with the Chenin Blanc grape being the dominant varietal. Red Anjou wine is dominated by the Cabernet Franc grape and then blended with Cabernet Sauvignon. Red Anjou provides red berry and floral aromas on the nose with fruit, earthy notes, and pleasant tannins on the palate. My favorite red Anjou producers are René et Agnès Mosse and Mark Angéli. Grolleau is a varietal that is indigenous to the Loire Valley is used mostly to produce Rosé d’Anjou. However, more and more winemakers are using the Grolleau grape to produce red wines. Red wine produced from Grolleau in Anjou legally cannot use the Anjou appellation designation and instead take on the VdF (Vin de France) or “table wine” designation. Grolleau is light, acidic and lower alcohol, which makes it a food-friendly wine. My favorite producers of Grolleau are Guillaume Noire and Domaine Chahut et Prodiges.
Food Pairings: mushrooms, peppers, root vegetables, steak fajitas.


JASON M. PANNU is a shareholder in the Nashville office of Lewis Thomason. You can reach him at JPannu@LewisThomason.com. Follow Jason on Twitter @jasonpannu and Instagram @jason.drinks.wine.

PHOTO: Jason M. Pannu in the vineyards of the Anjou appellation in the Loire Valley, France.
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