Judicial philosophy

Judicial philosophy

Judicial philosophy is the set of ideas and beliefs which dictate how Justices and judges of the United States federal courts may rule in many cases. There is a large academic debate over judicial philosophy, with some supporting the theory that justices can be categorized as judicial conservatives, moderates, or liberals, while others argue that justices cannot be evaluated using such a rigid division. Still, when nominations to important courts are made, a key issue is judicial philosophy.

Judicial Conservative

The conservative judicial philosophy is marked by the belief that the U.S. Constitution is a firmly defined document which is not open to new evaluation and modernization. Because of this, many judicial conservatives adhere to the idea of Originalism, and the concept that certain rights or restrictions are taken far beyond their initial understanding by the Founding Fathers of the United States. Many also believe that foreign law and precedent should not be a factor in U.S. legal matters. Politically, a conservative judicial philosophy can in addition be associated with Conservatism, a defense of established values. As a result, many judicial conservatives believe that traditional moral values are important in legal interpretation, and therefore tend to be pro-life and more lenient with matters concerning the separation of church and state. Judicial conservatives are almost always nominated by Republicans, and are usually attacked by Democrats, many of whom fear that judicial conservatives are opponents of civil rights.

Prominent Judicial Conservatives on the Supreme Court include:
*Chief Justice John Roberts
*Associate Justice Antonin Scalia
*Associate Justice Clarence Thomas
*Associate Justice Samuel Alito

Prominent Judicial Conservatives on the Courts of Appeals include:
*Judge Edith Jones of the Fifth Circuit
*Judge Janice Rogers Brown of the D.C. Circuit
*Judge William Pryor of the Eleventh Circuit

Judicial Liberal

The liberal judicial philosophy is marked by the belief that the U.S. Constitution is a living document which is open to new evaluation and modernization, that foreign law and precedent should be a factor in U.S. legal matters, and that certain rights or restrictions should be expanded. Politically, a liberal judicial philosophy can be associated with Progressivism, a desire for social reform. Due to their general support for strong protection of individual liberties, judicial liberals tend to be pro-choice and more restrictive in matters concerning the separation of church and state. Although certain Republican nominated justices have turned out to be judicial liberals, judicial liberals are generally nominated only by Democrats. Usually, judicial liberals are attacked by Republicans for not following the express wording of the U.S. Constitution and for undermining traditional social values. Prominent Judicial Liberals on the Supreme Court include:
*Associate Justice John Paul Stevens
*Associate Justice David Souter
*Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
*Associate Justice Stephen Breyer

Prominent Judicial Liberals on the Court of Appeals include:
*Judge Stephen Reinhardt of the Ninth Circuit
*Judge Guido Calabresi of the Second Circuit
*Judge Marsha S. Berzon of the Ninth Circuit

Judicial Moderates

The judicial moderate usually has a balance of both liberal and conservative opinions. Many just evaluate the law based on wording and past legal precedent rather than consider outside factors such as religious beliefs or public opinion. This usually makes the moderate desirable to the general public, and a swing vote. Some moderates are pegged as such because they will vote extremely liberal on some matters, but be extremely conservative with others. Other moderates are pegged as such because they will reverse their own decisions. Still others are called moderates because they lack a distinctive judicial past.

Prominent Judicial Moderates include:
*Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy
*Former Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor
*Former Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers (At the time of her unsuccessful nomination, Miers was categorized as a judicial moderate because there was no documentation that her judicial philosophy was either conservative or liberal. Miers had never been a state or nationally elected official and had never been a state or federal judge.)

ee also

*Active Liberty
*Constitution in exile
*Due process
*Judicial activism
*Judicial interpretation
*Judicial minimalism
*Judicial restraint
*Legal formalism
*Legal realism
*Legislative intent
*Living Constitution
*Originalism
*Plain Meaning Rule
*Purposive theory
*Stare decisis
*Statutory interpretation
*Strict constructionism
*Textualism


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