The Definition of “Activist Judge”

So Justice Stevens is about to retire. Already there are calls for the President to make sure that the judge nominated to replace him is not an “activist judge”. I imagine a discussion about the meaning of “activist judge” going like this:

Alice: “The president must not nominate an activist judge!”

Bob: “What do you mean by activist judge?”

Alice: “Well, an activist judge is one who is imposing his values on me by means of judicial decisions.”

Bob: “What if the judge shares your values? Is he then imposing his values on you?”

Alice: “No, because our values coincide.”

Bob: “So only a judge who does not share your values could be an activist judge. In effect, your real position is that the President must not nominate a judge who does not share your values.

All the blah blah about activist judges amounts to “let the President nominate a judge who shares my values.” Using the word “activist” instead of spelling out the real intent (“shares my values”) is just a way to disguise a selfish desire under a cover of pseudo-fairness.

(Oh, and don’t assume that in this discussion one side is inherently Democrat and the other Republican. No matter which roles the parties are playing in the current context, the roles are quite reversible and have in fact been reversed again and again.)

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