Judicial Restraint and Obama's Next Supreme Court Pick


If Sonia Sotomayor's Supreme Court nomination battle was about the virtues and vices of judicial empathy, will this summer's fight to replace Justice John Paul Stevens center on the concept of judicial restraint? It's starting to look that way. Last week aboard Air Force One, President Barack Obama told reporters that the Supreme Court's conservative majority were guilty of judicial activism, of substituting their views for that of the elected branches. According to Obama, both Congress and the state legislatures should get "some deference as long as core constitutional values are observed."

In today's Washington Post, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, hurled the activism charge right back at Obama:

People are increasingly worried that Washington is exceeding the limits set by the Constitution, asserting too large a role in American life.

So when President Obama announces his next Supreme Court nominee, the American people will want to know whether he is choosing someone who is committed to the text of the Constitution and the vision of the Founding Fathers, or whether his nominee is an activist who will shed a judge's neutral, constitutional role to push a progressive policy agenda.