When did Republicans decide that criticizing judicial activism is “dangerous”?

1996 Republican Party platform The federal judiciary, including the U.S. Supreme Court, has overstepped its authority under the Constitution. It has usurped the right of citizen legislators and popularly elected executives to make law by declaring duly enacted laws to be “unconstitutional” through the misapplication of the principle of judicial review. Any other role for the judiciary, especially when personal preferences masquerade as interpreting the law, is fundamentally at odds with our system of government in which the people and their representatives decide issues great and small.

2004 Republican Party platform: In the federal courts, scores of judges with activist backgrounds. . .  threaten America’s dearest institutions and our very way of life. . . We believe that the self-proclaimed supremacy of these judicial activists is antithetical to the democratic ideals on which our nation was founded.

2008 Republican Party platform: Judicial activism is a grave threat to the rule of law because unaccountable federal judges are usurping democracy, ignoring the Constitution and its separation of powers, and imposing their personal opinions upon the public. This must stop.

April 2010: Moments after Justice John Paul Stevens announced his intention to retire from the Supreme Court, Republican senators warned President Barack Obama not to appoint a judicial activist to replace him. Senator Orrin Hatch promised Obama “a whale of a fight if he appoints an activist to the court” and Senator Mitch McConnell warned that “Americans can expect Senate Republicans to make a sustained and vigorous case for judicial restraint and the fundamental importance of an evenhanded reading of the law.”

April 2012: On Monday President Obama said he would “just remind conservative commentators that for years what we’ve heard is the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint, that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and — and passed law. Well, there’s a good example, and I’m pretty confident that this court will recognize that and not take that step.” McConnell today said these  ”dangerous” comments are troubling, “completely unprecedented,” and they call for a “firm response.”

Truly, everyone loves activist judges — sometimes.

Amy Fried

About Amy Fried

Amy Fried loves Maine's sense of community and the wonderful mix of culture and outdoor recreation. She loves politics in three ways: as an analytical political scientist, a devoted political junkie and a citizen who believes politics matters for people's lives.