An important function of the judicial branch of government is to defend the U.S. Constitution and the constitutional rights of individuals. In my view, deference on the part of courts to legislative decisions or to court precedent should be viewed with skepticism. The plain text of the Constitution should always come first. Beyond that, however, judges should not interject their personal opinions into decisions. Does this position support so-called “judicial activism”, or “judicial restraint”? Many legal thinkers reject that dichotomy because it embodies contradictions, failing to reliably categorize my position combining constitutional precedence with a rejection of political preference in jurisprudence. The pairing seems natural enough to me.
“Judicial activism” is often used as a pejorative, as Randy Barnett says at the link above, quoting a Boston Globe article that quotes him:
” ‘Most people who use the term don’t provide a coherent definition of it. It typically means judicial opinions with which they disagree,’ says Randy E. Barnett, a law professor at Boston University who considers himself a libertarian and a defender of ‘original intent’ in Constitutional matters. [He should have written ‘original meaning’ not “original intent” –RB.]”
According to Reason‘s Damon Root, Rand Paul calls himself a judicial activist. It would be interesting to hear exactly how he defines it, but he also purports to be something of a strict constitutionalist. In “Why Rand Paul’s Case for ‘Judicial Activism’ Scares Both Liberals and Conservatives“, Root discusses the interesting coincidence that contrary to Paul, both traditional conservatives and progressives seem to believe in judicial restraint. His explanation:
“What these two views share in common is that they each support what amounts to virtually unchecked majoritarian rule over certain aspects of American life. For conservatives, judicial deference means that lawmakers get the last word when it comes to banning birth control and prohibiting ‘homosexual conduct.’ For liberals, judicial deference means that lawmakers get the last word when it comes to bulldozing private property in the name of eminent domain. Each approach demands judicial passivity in the face of its preferred forms of government action.”
Of course, there are lovers of government power on both the left and the right. Rand Paul wants to distance himself from their kind, but many libertarians do not believe he will stick to principles of limited government as he campaigns for the GOP nomination.