Day By Day© by Chris Muir.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Is the heyday of activist judges ending?

If you have a few minutes, check out this Thomas Lifson article from The American Thinker. Mr. Lifson posits that a confluence of facts and ideas is operating to end the era of activist judges -- something I think is a very good thing. Having said that, I'll just add one note that has always troubled me when criticizing, as I frequently do, the fact that judges have for decades felt free to substitute their opinions and morality in place of both Constitutional and statutory dictates, and case authority precedence. This exception to the rule, of course, is the Civil Rights Movement. I do not see how, in the 1950s, African-Americans could have broken free of the horrific States' Rights approach that controlled the Jim Crow South if the Supreme Court hadn't pushed the boundaries. Some of the decisions had to be rooted in true Constitutional doctrines, such as the 5th and 14th Amendments regarding equal application of the law (no judicial activism there, I think), but some, such as the libel cases, were already penumbra pushers. The clear moral righteousness of these 1950s' decisions leaves many of us -- at least many of us ex-liberals -- with a hazy feeling that the Supreme Court needs some room, just not all the room it's currently taking for itself. Having said that, I think the best idea is still non-activist judges, who see pushing the boundaries, not as the rule, but as the most extraordinary step to be taken only when nothing else -- absolutely nothing else -- will work. Certainly, this attitude would prevent the current judicial activism in the area of homosexual marriage, something the judges are withdrawing from public debate without even giving the American people a chance to weigh in on. This is not only judicial activism, it is a profoundly anti-Democratic course of conduct that can only weaken the body politic.