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Judicial Activism and Judicial Restraint Objective 29h. By Stephanie Byrnes 4-22-08 Pd. 5. Objective. 29h- recognize the difference between judicial activism and judicial restraint. Judicial Activism.

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29h- recognize the difference between judicial activism and judicial restraint

judicial activism
Judicial Activism
  • Judicial activism is the term used to describe the actions of judges who go beyond their constitutionally prescribed duties of applying law to the facts of individual cases, and "legislate" from the bench.These judges create new constitutional rights, amend existing ones, or create or amend existing legislation to fit their own notions of societal needs.
judicial activism example
Judicial Activism Example

when a court "finds" a "right of privacy" hidden in the "penumbras" and "emanations" of the Constitution, and later expands this "right of privacy" into the right to abortion; that's judicial activism. Here are some other examples:

When a court rules that the First Amendment ("Congress shall make no law ... ") suddenly means that "the states shall make no law" and creates a new constitutional "wall of separation" between church and state;

When a court rules that "evolving constitutional standards" mandates a right to same-sex marriage, contravening 200 years of state law and centuries of tradition.

debates about judicial activism
Debates about Judicial Activism
  • Detractors of judicial activism charge that it usurps power of the legislature, thereby diminishing the rule of law and democracy. They argue that an unelected judicial branch has no legitimate grounds to overrule policy choices of duly elected representatives, absent a real conflict with the constitution
  • Defenders of judicial prerogatives say that many cases of "judicial activism" merely exemplify judicial review, and that courts must uphold the constitution and strike down any statute that violates the constitution. They say that it is the duty of courts to protect minority rights and to uphold the law, notwithstanding the political sentiments of the day, and that constitutional democracy is far more than just majority rule.
judicial restraint
Judicial Restraint
  • Judicial restraint is a theory of judicial interpretation that encourages judges to limit the exercise of their own power. It asserts that judges should hesitate to strike down laws unless they are obviously unconstitutional. It is sometimes regarded as the opposite of judicial activism.
judicial restraint1
Judicial Restraint

In the area of Constitutional Law, a judicially restrained judge will first look to the language of the Constitution for guidance. Should the language be unclear, the judge would try to define the intent of the Framers of the Constitution in order to decide how best to apply that intent. Finally, if the intent of the Framers in a given area of Constitutional Law remains unclear, the restrained judge will defer to what he or she thinks the Framers meant and try to expand the least on what is considered Framers' intent. By doing so, the judicially restrained judge takes great care to defer to constitutional language or, failing that, to the intent of the Framers of the Constitution. This form of judicial review invites the least amount of "invention" in constitutional law, something a restrained jurist always tries to avoid.

judicial restraint2
Judicial Restraint
  • The same degree of deference is present in cases where statutory law is being reviewed. The restrained judge will stick to the statutory language in question. Should the wording of the law remain unclear, the judge will defer to the Congressional intent behind the statute by examining the legislative history of the law. And, as above, should congressional intent be unclear, the restrained judge will try to determine the intent of Congress with the greatest amount of deference to that body as possible. Each of these steps in this process is characterized by an assumption that Congress has the more authoritative voice and that judicial intervention over the voice of democratically elected officials is unwarranted.