Sunday, May 23, 2010

Roberts Supreme Court Tilts Toward Conservative Judicial Activism

Conservatives have repeatedly raised the charge of "judicial activism" against court rulings that support liberal positions. In "Activism V. Restraint" (The New Yorker, 5/24),  Jeffrey Toobin comments on how the conservative majority on the Supreme Court under John Roberts (left) has a record of legal decisions that favor right-wing ideology:

Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and his conservative fellow-Justices...are engaging in what’s known as judicial activism. A few weeks ago, on Air Force One, Obama, a former law professor, gave a useful definition of the term, saying that “an activist judge was somebody who ignored the will of Congress, ignored democratic processes, and tried to impose judicial solutions on problems instead of letting the process work itself through politically.” This is, indeed, what the Roberts Court is doing. Local elected officials in Seattle and Louisville created complex and nuanced strategies to achieve racial diversity in their schools; in 2007, in a decision written by Roberts, the Court overturned the plans. The elected city council of the District of Columbia passed a strict gun-control law; in 2008, in a decision by Antonin Scalia, the Court vetoed it. Most notoriously, Congress passed the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance bill, which President Bush signed into law; earlier this year, in a decision by Anthony M. Kennedy, the Court eviscerated that legislation and decreed that corporations have the right to spend unlimited funds to elect the candidates of their choice. In that case, known as Citizens United, the majority also reversed two recent Court decisions. Roberts and his allies, like the conservatives of seventy years ago, profess to believe in judicial restraint (the opposite of activism) and respect for precedent, but their actions belie their supposed values. 

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