What is judicial activism?

  • (noun): An interpretation of the U.S. constitution holding that the spirit of the times and the needs of the nation can legitimately influence judicial decisions (particularly decisions of the Supreme Court).
    Synonyms: broad interpretation

Judicial Activism

Judicial activism describes judicial rulings suspected of being based on personal or political considerations rather than on existing law. It is sometimes used as an antonym of judicial restraint. The definition of judicial activism, and which specific decisions are activist, is a controversial political issue, particularly in the United States. This phrase is generally traced back to a comment by Thomas Jefferson, referring to the "despotic behaviour" of Federalist federal judges, in particular, John Marshall. The question of judicial activism is closely related to constitutional interpretation, statutory construction, and separation of powers.

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Some articles on judicial activism:

John Roberts Supreme Court Nomination - Judicial Views - 2003 Hearings On Appeals Court Nomination - Judicial Activism and Deference To Legislatures
... deference to legislative policy judgments goes too far and becomes abdication of the judicial responsibility, and when scrutiny of those judgments goes too far on the part of the judges and becomes what I ... I don't think that constitutes judicial activism because obviously if the decision is wrong, it should be overruled ... That's not activism ...
Judicial Activism - Geographical Differences
... See also Judicial activism in the European Union and Judicial activism in Canada While the term was first coined and is often used in the United States, it has also been applied in other countries ...
Lochner Era - Assessment
... in the law as a symbol, indeed the quintessence of judicial usurpation of power." The Lochner era has, however, found support among libertarian scholars who defend the ... Epstein has contested the widespread allegation of judicial activism, stating that "he conceptual defense of the Lochner era is much stronger on structural grounds ... era as deeply reactionary is misguided and that the Court's "occasional exercises of economic activism were not entirely, or even mainly, bad things." In Rehabilitating ...
Living Constitution - Points of Contention - Judicial Activism
... Another common view of the Living Constitution is as synonymous with "judicial activism," a phrase generally used to accuse judges of resolving cases based on their own ... The pejorative "judicial activism" is most commonly subjective, so it is not proper to classify all decisions made using the Living interpretation as activist ... for political bias than other interpretations, thus creating more opportunity for misuses of judicial power ...

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