Constitution Daily

Smart conversation from the National Constitution Center

"Judicial Activism" to take center stage at The Center tonight

June 6, 2011 by NCC Staff


Charges of "judicial activism" have been leveled by both liberals and conservatives when they perceive judges to be overstepping their appropriate authority by "legislating from the bench."

The National Constitution Center this evening will present a discussion examining this highly emotional (and often misunderstood) topic. Federal Judge Kent Jordan and 2010-2011 Visiting Scholar Geoffrey Stone will join the discussion, which will include an opportunity for the audience to ask questions and interact with the panelists. Dr. Steve Frank, Chief Interpretive Officer at the Center, will moderate the discussion.In an essay that appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Sunday, Prof. Stone, the Edward H. Levi Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago Law School (and frequent Constitution Daily contributor), observed that charges of "judicial activism" leveled at the Warren Court in the 1950s and 1960s are mirrored now by charges of conservative activism being leveled at the Roberts Court today. An excerpt:
We have now entered a new and even more troubling phase of conservative constitutional jurisprudence. It is best characterized as "conservative activism." Justices who readily dismiss constitutional claims by women, political dissenters, and racial, ethnic, and religious minorities, but at the same time aggressively strike down restrictions on corporate political expenditures, laws regulating the sale and possession of handguns, affirmative-action programs, and the laws of Florida in the 2000 presidential election, are unmistakably using the power of judicial review in a highly selective manner that cannot credibly be justified by any principled theory of constitutional interpretation
In a companion essay, Chip Mellor, president and general counsel of the Institute for Justice, writes that charges of "judicial activism" leveled by the left and right have the effect of limiting the judicial branch's ability to check expanding government power.

An excerpt:

The cure for much of this lies in our Constitution, which prescribes more freedom and less government for the body politic. But without engaged judges to enforce those principles, they are nothing more than words on an increasingly faded page.
Read both essays in today's Philadelphia Inquirer and, if you are in the Philadelphia area, be sure to attend Judicial Activism Reconsidered tonight.

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