Efforts that ease the tension between the branches of our government serve values that are especially important given apparent governmental impotence in the face of great challenges, and even doubts about the legitimacy of government institutions themselves. Improved relations between the branches implies more than well-oiled government machinery—it speaks to a civility and energy across institutions that ultimately benefit the citizenry. Set out below are our three approaches to improving the health of our democracy.
1. Monitoring the health of the three branches
Robert Katzmann believed that the government, like individuals, needs regular check-ups. The Initiative will continue efforts begun in “Workways of Governance” (Gov. Inst., Brookings, 2003), to provide objective indicators for evaluating the health of the three branches. The Initiative’s staff has data and expertise on assessing presidential personnel, the process of filling judicial vacancies, legislative oversight of the judicial branch (including judicial ethics) and the frequency of government breakdown. Designing and developing online trackers that feature this information will inform public understanding of the health of the U.S. democracy.
2. Examining the relationship between the courts and Congress
The Initiative will continue Katzmann’s pathbreaking efforts by monitoring court reform legislation, seeking ways to foster legislative-judicial collaboration and convening scholars working in this area.
3. Promoting civic education
The third component reflects Judge Katzmann’s dedication to civic education—to counter threats to American democracy by improving the public’s, and especially young people’s knowledge and understanding of the role of courts and more broadly, the U.S. government. The Second Circuit’s Justice for All: Courts and Community Initiative, which he created in 2014 and which has since been named for him, is testimony to this commitment. Therefore, where appropriate we will fashion our research results into modules for civics classes and use in other programs for students, especially in the higher grades. This civic education component will be in addition to informing practitioners and researchers of our work through such outreach efforts as public events, periodic seminars with principals and staff, occasional podcasts showcasing our research and including a college student, a Katzmann Scholar, to assist with various research projects.
Have questions or curious about the Katzmann Initiative? Please email KatzmannInitiative@brookings.edu.