Pub. date: 2007 | Online Pub. Date: September 25, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952637 | Print ISBN: 9780761923879 | Online ISBN: 9781412952637| Publisher:Sage Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Judicial activism is a process by which judges aggressively assert their power beyond the traditional role of dispute adjudication under a constitutional framework of separation of powers. The philosophical justification for judicial activism has varied depending on place and time, but discussion about the role of judges in constitutional democracies was reappraised during the late twentieth century. Some argued that judges did not merely adjudicate rights and wrongs but were vigilant sentinels ( qui vive ) as well. The judiciary was a profession with a passion for justice. Judges often developed a heightened political consciousness concerning the structures of society and the nature of the social transformation process. As Benjamin Cardozo, U.S. Supreme Court justice (1932–1938), wrote: “Judges are men not disembodied spirits, they respond to human emotions. The great tide and currents which engulf the rest of mankind do not turn aside in their course and pass the judges ...