What is the most important part of the 11th Circuit’s recent ruling on The Affordable Care Act? You might think it was the individual mandate being struck down. But it was actually this: Judicial engagement.
For the first time in our nation’s history, a federal court used the term “judicial engagement” in a ruling striking down federal legislation. This is a cause for celebration because—regardless of one’s political leanings—we should all agree on the need for engaged judges. (And regarding the individual mandate, we all know that it will ultimately reach the Supreme Court.)
As the nation’s leading legal advocate for liberty, the Institute for Justice enters courtrooms across America determined to vindicate our most precious rights. And all too often, our opponents argue thatjudges should ignore facts or even make them up to justify what the government is doing.
Conservatives, liberals and libertarians should all be able to agree that we need judges that are serious about judging and examining the real facts about what our government is doing.
Today it is fashionable to laud judicial decisions that line up with one’s worldview—and condemn those that do not as “judicial activism.” So it comes as no surprise that E.J. Dionne referred to the 11th Circuit ruling on the individual mandate in the Washington Post as “the latest episode of rampant conservative judicial activism.”
But as constitutional expert Robert McNamara points out at The Corner, such responses miss the point. The 11th Circuit ruling was fundamentally about the role of courts and when our courts should step in to limit legislative power.
When should that occur? The 11th Circuit has this to say:
When Congress oversteps those outer limits, the Constitution requires judicial engagement, not judicial abdication.
What does the court mean by judicial engagement? It means that judges should be in the business of judging, and courts should look at the law and the facts of the case and see what is really going on. They shouldn’t simply defer all authority to the legislature. McNamara explains:
This is the real debate: Should courts exercise independent judgment about the facts and assert an independent role for themselves in constitutional questions? Or should they defer to whatever the legislature happens to want on a given day? Focusing on the result — on whether or not you like health-care reform — is a distraction from this core question. And make no mistake about the question’s importance: The answer will have sweeping consequences for everyone from monks who want to support themselves by selling handmade wooden caskets to ordinary Americans who want to put political signs in their yards.
The courts, McNamara continues, “are meant to be a bulwark of liberty in American government. But that’s a responsibility they can only fulfill if they engage, if they assert the authority to independently evaluate the facts and the law — if they, in a word, judge.”
That is why the Institute for Justice has established the Center for Judicial Engagement.
CJE educates the public and persuades judges to fully enforce the limits our Constitution places on the government’s exercise of power over our lives. IJ coined the term “judicial engagement,” and we are delighted to see it used – and applied – by the 11th Circuit.
What do you think about judicial engagement?
President Obama last Friday, received two separate smackdowns via the Judicial Branch of government
It’s been one helluva weekend for President Obama. Last Friday, he received two separate smackdowns via the Judicial Branch of government, and by Sunday, everyone was talking about his dismal polling results as his approval rating dropped below 40% for the first time. Whether he realizes it yet or not, what this weekend really showed was that the Constitution matters. Trampling this founding document as he has done for over two and a half years triggered that precious parchment’s checks and balances, and it caused the citizens of the country to express their disapproval of his performance.
On Friday, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down as unconstitutional Obamcare’s individual mandate, ruling that it represented an overreach of Congress’s authority. The court stated the health care law was “breathtaking in its expansive scope.” Further, it wrote:
“The government’s position amounts to an argument that the mere fact of an individual’s existence substantially affects interstate commerce, and therefore Congress may regulate them at every point of their life. This theory affords no limiting principles in which to confine Congress’s enumerated power.”
Although the fate of Obamacare ultimately will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, the Circuit Court of Appeals 2-1 decision (with one of the two ruling against the law a Clinton appointee), is an early harbinger of the Judicial Branch’s view of the matter. The Constitution’s system of checks and balances – hopefully – will ensure the Legislative and Executive Branches of government are kept in check when our nation’s highest court weighs in.
In an unrelated, but equally important matter, the U.S. District Court in Wyoming on Friday rejected an Obama administration policy that had required more extensive environmental review of some oil drilling permits. The Interior Department “had no authority” to adopt the policy last year “without public notice and an opportunity for comment,” Judge Nancy D. Freudenthal wrote. She ruled in favor of an industry group and vacated the policy nationwide.
In total, the value of the potential oil reserves of the United States exceeds $187 Trillion.
The current national debt is $14.2 Trillion or less than 8%.
This ruling is an indictment of the administration’s regulatory zeal. Between multiple Czars and Executive Branch departments, there’s been a frenzy over the past two and a half years to introduce policy by fiat, thereby circumventing the legislative process. The net result of all the excessive rules has been a stranglehold on America’s business and prosperity. The Wyoming court’s ruling is an attempt to snap the leash back on the Executive Branch, to remind it that it does not have unbridled authority over the citizens of the United States.
Finally, President Obama’s latest poll numbers suggest he’s lost the halo shine that hope and changeonce brought him from a mesmerized citizenry. According to Gallup, over the weekend his approval rating dropped to 39%, while his disapproval rating was at 54%. The voting public is exercising its free speech rights and sending a message to the President that it is exasperated with his poor performance.
It’s about jobs. It’s about an economy that shows no signs of real recovery. It’s about a President who wants to blame everyone and everything (to include a tsunami) instead of shouldering responsibility like a real leader should. Most importantly, it’s about the Constitution. The American people are tired of the big government suffocation in their lives, their loss of individual freedoms, and their sense of hopelessness. Just like the check and balance we’ve seen the Judicial Branch of government exercise in these recent court decisions, the American people are telling the President (and Congress) that we will exercise Constitutionally-protected rights in the near future. We will vote.