Constitutional Law

In Impromptu Remarks, Obama Criticizes Conservative Judicial Activism

President Obama says it’s time to apply the concept of judicial restraint to conservative judicial activists who are ignoring the will of Congress.

“The concept of judicial restraint cuts both ways,” Obama said Wednesday evening, recalling that liberal judges had faced criticism for overturning laws in the 1960s and 1970s. The New York Times and the Associated Press had stories.

Obama made his remarks to reporters who were flying with him on Air Force One, the stories say. He commented in response to a question about whether “conservative judicial activism” would play a role in his next Supreme Court nomination.

“It used to be that the notion of an activist judge was somebody who ignored the will of Congress, ignored democratic processes, and tried to impose judicial solutions on problems instead of letting the process work itself through politically,” Obama said.

“And in the ’60s and ’70s, the feeling was—is that liberals were guilty of that kind of approach. What you’re now seeing, I think, is a conservative jurisprudence that oftentimes makes the same error.”

Obama said laws should get “some deference as long as core constitutional values are observed.”

Asked for additional comment, White House officials told the Times that Obama’s remarks were consistent with a passage in his book The Audacity of Hope. “In our reliance on the courts to vindicate not only our rights but also our values, progressives had lost too much faith in democracy,” Obama wrote.

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