Occasionally, the stars align to illuminate important civic matters for all to see and understand. Such an alignment occurred last week in the June 18 hard-copy edition of the New York Times, in the form of two articles running just pages apart.
The first was a front page news story on the Supreme Court’s 7-2 decision in California v. Texas, upholding the Affordable Care Act (ACA) from a challenge by 18 states and two individuals. The second was an opinion piece in the same edition entitled “Justice Sotomayor, the Supreme Court’s Truth Teller,” authored by Linda Greenhouse, the retired legal affairs writer for the Times.
Taken together, the two stories illustrate the difference between the philosophies of judicial restraint and judicial activism.
Adherents of judicial restraint see the judge’s role as modest. Judges should be umpires, calling balls and strikes, regardless of who wins the game as a consequence of their calls. Judges should recognize the boundary between judging and legislating, and take care not to cross it. Judicial activists, on the other hand, expect judges to do more than merely apply the law to the facts, disregarding the result. Instead, they believe judges should strive to reach the “right” result; i.e., the result embodying their vision of a just and moral society.Continue reading