Good Behavior

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Until the late seventeenth century, royal judges held their offices "during the king's good pleasure." After the Glorious Revolution (1688–1689), judges in England (but not in the colonies) were appointed "during good behavior." This was a crucial step toward insuring the independence of the judiciary. The phrase was used in several revolutionary state constitutions, and the constitutional convention of 1787 unanimously adopted it to define the tenure of federal judges. alexander hamilton, in the federalist, defended such tenure on the grounds that judicial independence is as necessary in a republic as in a monarchy.

It is by no means certain that a judge deviates from "good behavior" only when he commits "high crimes and misdemeanors"; however, the Constitution provides for no means of removal except impeachment.

Dennis J. Mahoney