Judicial Activism Law & Legal Definition


Judicial activism is the view that the Supreme Court and other judges can and should creatively (re)interpret the texts of the Constitution and the laws in order to serve the judges' own visions regarding the needs of contemporary society. Judicial activism believes that judges assume a role as independent policy makers or independent "trustees" on behalf of society that goes beyond their traditional role as interpreters of the Constitution and laws. The concept of judicial activism is the polar opposite of judicial restraint.

Critics of judicial activism assert that it subverts the separation of powers principle founded by the framers of the U.S. Constitution. Judges frequently must interpret what the law actually says, but they are often accused of "judicial activism" if their interpretation seems be a rewriting of the law, especially if their rulings strike down or substantially revise laws passed by actual lawmakers.