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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“Scarcely any political question arises in the United States that is not resolved, sooner or later, into a judicial question.”
—Alexis de Tocqueville (18051859)