For most of the new century, conservatives have sounded the battle cry about the dangers of “activist judges.” By their stated definition, activist judges are judges who decide cases based on their personal political views rather than legal precedent and adherence to the Constitution. What they really mean by the term, of course, is judges who lean left.
The hypocrisy has long been evident to anyone who pays the faintest of attention to American politics: “activist judges” are just fine when they agree with a conservative platform, but are a threat to our very way of life when they legalize abortion, stop deportation of illegal immigrants, or oppose the teaching of Creationism in schools. “Judicial activism” is an empty political slogan, signifying nothing, and intended to do nothing more than rally the Republican base to cough up those sweet donor dollars.
In modern politics, it would be difficult to find any judge who is not driven in part by personal politics. The days of defining judges by strict vs. broad constructionism are long past. Today, judges are liberals or conservatives, and it would be impossible for those ideologies not to impact rulings — in the same way that purely objective journalism is an unattainable dream.
Certainly, some judges try harder than others to pore over precedents, previous rulings, and legal minutiae. Some take the responsibility of adjudicating more seriously than others, and consider it their duty to listen to every word spoken by counselors and allow themselves to be persuaded when appropriate. Others have their minds made up before a case even begins.
In particular, the modern Supreme Court has proven to be a joke, with four leftist justices always siding with the left, four conservative judges always siding with the right, and the one dude who’s kind of in the middle if you squint usually siding with the right. The conservative justices get tons of heat for always staying close to the nest, but the liberals are no better in terms of breadth of belief. Yes, the Supreme Court handed the presidency to George W. Bush on the basis of politics rather than legal ideology, but all four liberals sided with Gore.
However, Republican politicians, media members, and voters continue to cry foul about liberal activist judges — when the single biggest culprit of that behavior has his fat ass planted clearly on the right-hand side of the Supreme Court.