Now that SCOTUS has ruled on the same sex marriage cases, I have already heard "activist judges" being thrown around. This term is used a lot but often incorrectly so let's review what it means so you can use it correctly.
Judicial activism is when a court doesn't let the lower court ruling stand or when the court takes some action.
Judicial restraint is when the court lets the lower court ruling stand or when the court refuses to act.
The ruling on DOMA is judicial activism bc it overturned an act of Congress.
The ruling on Prop 8 is judicial restraint bc the court didn't act & let the lower court ruling stand.
The DNA case is judicial restraint because the court upheld the law & didn't act to overturn it.
The Voting Rights Act case is judicial activism bc it overturned a law.
The Obamacare case was judicial restraint bc the court upheld the law & didn't act.
Judicial activism IS NOT the same thing as liberal politics. Judicial activism refers to a court that ACTS. Be that overturning laws or overturning lower court rulings, the court does SOMETHING. It is inaccurate to say the court is full of activist judges just bc you disagree with the ruling.
The key is that the court does something, whether you agree w/ it or not.
So, please don't use "activist judges" as a pejorative term bc you don't like the outcome. Please use it correctly.