Is judicial activism really a bad thing?

July 27, 2010
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Judicial activism – why is it such a dirty term?

Bring up the idea judicial activism in certain groups of people and you’ll get a different response.

There are those on one side who believe judges should not interpret the law using their own personal or political views. The law is the law and you stick to it.

Others think the interpretation of the law needs to change depending on the times. Can a law written 100 years ago still apply today? Perhaps.

I bring this up because of a quote I read from a person associated with the Indiana Family Institute. This is a group that works to strengthen families and wants to make sure that marriage is between a man and a woman only.

“With the stroke of a pen, a judge can say the statute is unconstitutional, as they have in Iowa, Massachusetts, California, and elsewhere,” according to Curt Smith. “So we want to remove the issue of what is marriage, what is family from judicial activism.”

And the term comes up it seems any time someone is nominated for a judicial position. Some cried judicial activist toward U.S. Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. The newest justice, Sonia Sotomayor, also faced that criticism. Our very own Judge David Hamilton, now on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, was called an activist during his nomination process to that court.

How can we not expect judges to interpret the law in a new way when certain issues have never been addressed? Can we really rely on the Constitution and decades-old law when it comes to legal issues with the Internet? Times change and there will be times when judges are forced to make a decision without the safety net of established law. If they didn’t, imagine the standstill in our courts system or the lack of redress in many cases.

The term “judicial activism” is just another way to inject politics into a position that should be as free from political influence as possible. Based on my brief research of the term, it’s a relatively new one, invented in the middle of the last century. Perhaps they didn’t have a way to describe this phenomenon appropriately before this came about, or perhaps the idea of activism didn’t matter as much.

But, it does seem any time a judge or someone with the possibility of becoming a judge makes a decision that one group doesn’t agree with, the opponents cry “activist!”

ADVERTISEMENT
  • Seperation of Powers
    The legislature's job is to make the laws, not the judges! Judicial activism implies that the judges are legislating from the bench, something that should be reserved for the body of law the represents the people.

    Yes, judicial activism is a bad thing even while "times change." Don't you think that the founding fathers realized that issues change with the times? Yet they still agreed on a separation of powers. Why might that be?
    • Activism Exists
      What else do you call it when the SCOTUS discovers a right to destroy your unborn child in the Bill of Rights? What else do you call overturning the clear will of the people by instituting same-sex marriage (see California, etc.)?
    • Judge
      In my one and only dealing with the court it was as if Judge LynnMurray of Howard County practiced judicial activism at her discretion. Using it in a chauvinistic and unprofessional manner.

    Post a comment to this story

    COMMENTS POLICY
    We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
     
    You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
     
    Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
     
    No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
     
    We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
     

    Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

    Sponsored by
    ADVERTISEMENT
    1. I was wondering about the 6 million put aside for common attorney fees?does that mean that if you are a plaintiff your attorney fees will be partially covered?

    2. My situation was hopeless me and my husband was on the verge of divorce. I was in a awful state and felt that I was not able to cope with life any longer. I found out about this great spell caster drlawrencespelltemple@hotmail.com and tried him. Well, he did return and now we are doing well again, more than ever before. Thank you so much Drlawrencespelltemple@hotmail.comi will forever be grateful to you Drlawrencespelltemple@hotmail.com

    3. I expressed my thought in the title, long as it was. I am shocked that there is ever immunity from accountability for ANY Government agency. That appears to violate every principle in the US Constitution, which exists to limit Government power and to ensure Government accountability. I don't know how many cases of legitimate child abuse exist, but in the few cases in which I knew the people involved, in every example an anonymous caller used DCS as their personal weapon to strike at innocent people over trivial disagreements that had no connection with any facts. Given that the system is vulnerable to abuse, and given the extreme harm any action by DCS causes to families, I would assume any degree of failure to comply with the smallest infraction of personal rights would result in mandatory review. Even one day of parent-child separation in the absence of reasonable cause for a felony arrest should result in severe penalties to those involved in the action. It appears to me, that like all bureaucracies, DCS is prone to interpret every case as legitimate. This is not an accusation against DCS. It is a statement about the nature of bureaucracies, and the need for ADDED scrutiny of all bureaucratic actions. Frankly, I question the constitutionality of bureaucracies in general, because their power is delegated, and therefore unaccountable. No Government action can be unaccountable if we want to avoid its eventual degeneration into irrelevance and lawlessness, and the law of the jungle. Our Constitution is the source of all Government power, and it is the contract that legitimizes all Government power. To the extent that its various protections against intrusion are set aside, so is the power afforded by that contract. Eventually overstepping the limits of power eliminates that power, as a law of nature. Even total tyranny eventually crumbles to nothing.

    4. Being dedicated to a genre keeps it alive until the masses catch up to the "trend." Kent and Bill are keepin' it LIVE!! Thank you gentlemen..you know your JAZZ.

    5. Hemp has very little THC which is needed to kill cancer cells! Growing cannabis plants for THC inside a hemp field will not work...where is the fear? From not really knowing about Cannabis and Hemp or just not listening to the people teaching you through testimonies and packets of info over the last few years! Wake up Hoosier law makers!

    ADVERTISEMENT