2002 Founders' Celebration Events

Who's Activist Now? The Rehnquist Court and the Debate Over Judicial Activism

March 6, 2002


Traditional hallmarks of conservative jurisprudence have included: a willingness to defer to the judgments of other branches of government; an acceptance of a less pivotal role for the judiciary; and a reluctance to expand or to find new constitutional rights. For some commentators, the Rehnquist Court has defied this traditional conservative perception: the current court has made itself the central political and constitutional force in the nation, deferring to no other branch. Other analysts see the court as following a more conventional and restrained path. On the 15th anniversary of the Rehnquist Court, this panel examined the court's alleged judicial activism through its treatment of recent cases relating to federalism, voting rights, race, and democracy.