Judicial Activism

Sit up and take notice, Your Honor.

Justice Ginsburg overstated her case. If judicial activism is defined as the tendency to strike down laws, the court led by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. is less activist than any court in the last 60 years.

Adam Liptak, the Supreme Court correspondent of the New York Times, summarizing recent research into judicial behavior.

Amanda Knox

* Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was chatty this week. In terms of same-sex marriage, the Notorious R.B.G. thinks “[t]he court handled both of those cases just the way they should have.” [Bloomberg]

* And just like a mean girl, Ruthie’s claws were out. After calling the Roberts Court “one of the most activist courts in history,” she offered comments on Justice Samuel Alito’s eye-rolling. [New York Times]

* Don’t cry for Argentina, the truth is it never respected you. After losing an appeal at the Second Circuit, the country has vowed to defy any of the court’s rulings with which it doesn’t agree. [Reuters]

* Texas takes the bull by the horns: the state’s Supreme Court will consider if it has the power and jurisdiction to grant gay divorces despite the fact that it bans gay marriage. [Houston Chronicle]

* “I have a temperament that doesn’t adapt well to politics. It’s because I speak my mind so much.” Joaquim Barbosa, chief justice of Brazil’s highest court and one of the most influential lawyers in the world (according to Time), isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. [New York Times]

* Since she was already acquitted of the murder of Meredith Kercher, Amanda Knox (fka Foxy Knoxy) will not be returning to Italy for her retrial. That would be as silly as admitting to participation in orgies. [CNN]

* Following a settlement on undisclosed terms, the suit filed against Paula Deen has been dismissed. It’s too bad that the Baroness of Butter’s career sunk like a spoiled soufflé in the process. [Businessweek]

* New York’s AG filed a $40M suit against Donald Trump, a rich man who can’t afford a decent hairstylist and allegedly makes students at Trump University weep with his “bait-and-switch” tactics. [NBC News]

Remember the homework assignment issued by Judge Jerry Smith of the Fifth Circuit to the U.S. Department of Justice? Earlier this week, Judge Smith ordered the DOJ to file a three-page, single-spaced letter discussing the principles of judicial review, in light of prior comments by President Barack Obama that could be construed as questioning the doctrine.

The response was due today at noon (Houston time) — about 20 minutes ago. It was filed on behalf of the Department by Attorney General Eric Holder.

Let’s take a look, shall we?

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'I'm so glad the Justice Department respects judicial review!'

The nation recently received a lesson in constitutional law from President Barack Obama (who famously taught Con Law at the University of Chicago). As we mentioned yesterday, President Obama said on Monday that striking down the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, would constitute an “unprecedented, extraordinary step,” amounting to “judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint — that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law.”

The problem with this lesson: it wasn’t exactly accurate. Those “unelected” federal judges “overturn … duly constituted and passed law[s]” all the time — well, maybe not all the time, but on occasion, when said laws are inconsistent with the U.S. Constitution. It’s neither “unprecedented” nor “extraordinary,” and it doesn’t amount to judicial activism; rather, it’s called judicial review.

One prominent conservative jurist, Judge Jerry E. Smith of the Fifth Circuit, took it upon himself to set the record straight on this matter….

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Justice Elena Kagan

It seems like we’re all working hard. It’s not like we’re playing golf on Wednesday afternoons.

– Justice Elena Kagan, in remarks delivered at Harvard Law School this past Friday to the National Association of Women Judges.

(A second Quote of the Day, from a circuit judge who feeds clerks to Justice Kagan, after the jump.)

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When asked about the decision in Bush v. Gore, Justice Antonin Scalia — one of the best legal minds in modern American history — tells questioners to “get over it.” That’s right, the Supreme Court decided the winner of a popular presidential election, and one of the architects of that decision wants people to not care about it anymore. Is he serious? I wish Scalia could just “get over” the fact that privacy is a right now, but nobody begrudges him the right to ask questions about it.

It’s the ten-year anniversary of the Bush v. Gore decision, and everybody is talking about it, in part because the Court does not talk about it. Writing in the New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin tells us that in the decade since the five “conservative” justices stopped Florida’s recount, the Supreme Court has cited Bush v. Gore exactly zero times. Think about that: it’s been ten years since the Supreme Court picked the president, and the Court is kind of hoping everybody forgets about it. Bush v. Gore is like a stripper the Court killed in Vegas when it was there for a bachelor’s party. “She’s got no friends or family, strippers die all the time in Vegas, let’s get back to the hotel and NEVER SPEAK OF THIS AGAIN.”

But this isn’t some drunk broad you can drive into the Atlantic Ocean and hope everybody covers for you. This is a presidential election! And whether or not they talk about it, the effect of Bush v. Gore is very evident today — and not just because of the five SCOTUS votes that were more important than everybody else’s….

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