Judicial Activism and Judicial Restraint
An underlying tension in the history of the United States
Supreme Court has been between the principles of judicial activism
and judicial restraint.
history, opposition to judicial activism has often been voiced by politicians
and political commentators leaning toward the right of the political spectrum.
Among these advocates for judicial restraint is currently sitting Chief Justice
John Roberts, whose appointment to the bench by the George W. Bush Administration
continued the Court’s rightward driftfrom the point of the
Reagan-era Rehnquist court, which saw at least the principles of judicial
fervent proponent of judicial restraint, the legal scholar Robert Bork, was
submitted by the Reagan Administration to the bench in part for his strong opposition
to judicial activism and was ultimately rejected for what many in the political
arena objected to as his excessive stand on this issue.
judicial activism/judicial restraint debate need not be essentially political,
some commentators have suggested that the increasing tendency to politicize
Supreme Court decisions can make judicial activism a difficult element to
extricate from the judgments. Doubts have thus been voiced as to whether the
judicial activism/judicial restraint debates which have frequently been raised
are at a basic level truly concerned with these issues, or if they are rather
made in the spirit of opposing specific uses of judicial activism, as opposed
to the practice as a whole.