Justice Thomas: Judicial Activism Has No Meaning

More

Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas was in Florida Friday delivering a series of speeches and appearances to the faithful—literally. One of six Catholics on the court, his remarks at Ave Maria University, the Ave Maria School of Law, and to Catholic business leaders earned him rave reviews from some in the local media.

The Ave Herald (Ave Maria, Florida) reported:

"... Nonetheless," he said, "I get called an activist because I believe we should follow the constitution, not the stuff we made up about it." He urged the students to respect the courts, even if they disagree with their decisions. "You want to be constructive," he said. "You can feel strongly without acting emotionally and being bitter and angry." Common themes in both appearances were the importance of faith and being guided by wanting to "just do the right thing. I tell my law clerks every year," Justice Thomas said, "that pragmatism is not a principle. It's giving yourself the excuse to go along to get along."

And the Naples Daily News (Florida) offered this:

He fielded a question about the prevalence of judicial activism: 'I think it's so interesting, because the people who have gone beyond the traditional way of reading the Constitution were really activists. ... I'm an activist to them because I say we should follow the Constitution and not the things you've made up about it. So, I really don't know what that means —it's lost its meaning if I an (sic) an 'activist.'

Now, I have long argued that the phrase "judicial activism" means so many different things to so many different people that it really means nothing at all. But it's fascinating to me to see that the avatar of perceived judicial activism on the part of the court's conservatives—remember I said perceived—would frame the issue that way. For once, Justice Thomas is right. Judicial activist means nothing. How about we coin a new phrase and see if it sticks: How about "judicial partisan"?

Jump to comments
Presented by

Andrew Cohen is a contributing editor at The Atlantic, 60 Minutes' first-ever legal analyst, and a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice. He is also chief analyst for CBS Radio News and has won a Murrow Award as one of the nation's leading legal journalists. More

Cohen is the winner of the American Bar Association’s 2012 Silver Gavel Award for his Atlantic commentary about the death penalty in America and the winner of the Humane Society’s 2012 Genesis Award for his coverage of the plight of America’s wild horses. A racehorse owner and breeder, Cohen also is a two-time winner of both the John Hervey and O’Brien Awards for distinguished commentary about horse racing.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Sad Desk Lunch: Is This How You Want to Die?

How to avoid working through lunch, and diseases related to social isolation.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Where Time Comes From

The clocks that coordinate your cellphone, GPS, and more

Video

Computer Vision Syndrome and You

Save your eyes. Take breaks.

Video

What Happens in 60 Seconds

Quantifying human activity around the world

Writers

Up
Down

More in National

Just In