The Least Dangerous Branch? Consequences of Judicial Activism

The Least Dangerous Branch? Consequences of Judicial Activism

The Least Dangerous Branch? Consequences of Judicial Activism

The Least Dangerous Branch? Consequences of Judicial Activism

Synopsis

Is the American judiciary still the "least dangerous branch," as Alexander Hamilton and legal scholar Alexander Bickel characterized it? Powers and Rothman explore the impact of the federal courts, providing a brief account of the development of constitutional law and an overview of the judiciary's impact in six controversial areas of public policy.

Excerpt

In 1962 Alexander Bickel called the U.S. Supreme Court the least dangerous branch because of the inevitable limitations it accepted as part of its mandate. Bickel’s analysis no longer holds. The Court has taken on an increasingly large role in influencing American public policy.

This book assesses the impact of judicial intervention in the areas of busing, affirmative action, prisons, mental health policy, law enforcement, and voting rights. It also explores the consequences of judicial activism for broader social, political, and legal trends in the United States.

This study is sponsored by the Center for the Study of Social and Political Change, directed by Stanley Rothman, and has been supported with grants from the Olin Foundation, the Sarah Scaife Foundation, and the Earhart Foundation. We wish to thank all those who read and commented on the manuscript, especially R. Shep Melnick of Boston College. We also wish to acknowledge the following individuals for reviewing various chapters of the manuscript: Lisa Budzynski, Leonard Leo, Roger Clegg, Kent Scheidegger, Algert Agricola, Jr., Ronald Rychlak, and Greg Coleman. Their comments and criticisms were very helpful. We wish to thank Janice Mason for just about everything.

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