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What Are the Different Types of Judicial Philosophy?

Judicial philosophy shapes how judges interpret the law, ranging from strict originalism to the more flexible living constitutionalism. Understanding these perspectives is key to grasping court decisions. How might these philosophies impact your rights? Dive deeper to see the law through a judge's eyes.
Donn Saylor
Donn Saylor

There are three main types of judicial philosophy: conservative, liberal, and moderate. In a general sense, this field is the philosophical perspectives employed by judges to interpret laws. Specifically, it relates to the United States Supreme Court and the US federal courts and how the justices and judges working in those courts utilize their belief systems to make the rulings they do.

Judicial philosophy plays a vital role in deciding which judges are appointed to court systems. While few judges adhere to a particular philosophy 100-percent of the time, most possess an overall philosophy that is conservative, liberal, or moderate. These philosophies are taken into serious consideration when it is time for lawmakers to nominate judges to the courts. The court system seeks to have a balanced number of judges, ensuring that rulings do not lean too far right or too far left from a political perspective and instead focus on the particular details of individual cases. Maintaining a fair and balanced legal system is one of the ultimate goals of appointing judges of differing judicial philosophies.

Judicial philosophy regards how Supreme Court justices use their beliefs to make rulings.
Judicial philosophy regards how Supreme Court justices use their beliefs to make rulings.

A conservative judicial philosophy proposes the idea that the United States Constitution supports certain laws being made by the executive and legislative branches of the U.S. government—not by the justices and judges of the Supreme Court and federal courts. This philosophy adheres to the decision that the Constitution is a fixed document that is meant to be taken literally, and the rules of lawmaking and governance are clearly defined within its context. Judges with this philosophy, then, tend to follow traditional lines of thinking and conventional value systems. This has led to many instances of judicial activism, in which judges have utilized the courts to further their own personal beliefs on morality.

Judicial philosophy may determine which judges are appointed to court systems.
Judicial philosophy may determine which judges are appointed to court systems.

The liberal judicial philosophy is, in essence, the opposite of the conservative viewpoint. Liberal judges believe that the Constitution is dynamic in nature and constantly open to interpretation. Due to this stance, a liberal judicial philosophy involves the support of laws that work toward a progressive spectrum of ideas, including civil rights, personal choice, and the separation of church and state. Like conservative philosophy, liberal judges are also prone to making decisions based on personal beliefs about values and morality, which typically challenge more traditional stands and existing laws.

A judge who possesses a moderate judicial philosophy makes decisions that can be either conservative or liberal in nature.
A judge who possesses a moderate judicial philosophy makes decisions that can be either conservative or liberal in nature.

A judge who possesses a moderate judicial philosophy makes decisions that can be either conservative or liberal in nature, depending on the particulars of the case being handled. They do not commit themselves to one line of judicial thought; they can vote either conservatively or liberally. In cases that provide a particular challenge to the courts, judges with a moderate judicial philosophy often provide a swing vote, the deciding vote in a case that throws support behind one side of the philosophical spectrum.

Frequently Asked Questions

What exactly is Judicial Philosophy?

The attitude that judges take while reading the law and making decisions in legal cases is referred to as judicial philosophy. It reflects their views on the judiciary's role, the significance of legal precedent, and the interaction between the judiciary, the legislature, and the executive branches of government.

What are the many kinds of Judicial Philosophy?

Originalism, Textualism, Living Constitutionalism, Pragmatism, and Minimalism are some examples of judicial philosophy. The importance of the original meaning of the Constitution and the intentions of its framers is emphasized by originalism. Textualism emphasizes the simple meaning of a law's language, whereas Living Constitutionalism emphasizes the need of interpreting the Constitution in light of evolving social and political ideals. Pragmatism emphasizes the practical ramifications of legal judgements, whereas Minimalism prefers small verdicts that avoid large legal statements.

What exactly is originalism?

Originalism is a legal ideology that emphasizes the necessity of interpreting the Constitution in accordance with its original meaning and the framers' intentions. Originalists think that the Constitution is a fixed instrument that should be interpreted as the individuals who wrote and ratified it understood it. They claim that the text of the Constitution, as well as the historical context in which it was written, should be used to interpret it.

What is the definition of Living Constitutionalism?

Living Constitutionalism is a legal doctrine that emphasizes the need of interpreting the Constitution in light of shifting social and political norms. According to living constitutionalists, the Constitution is a living document that should evolve through time to suit society's changing demands. They contend that the Constitution should be construed not just in accordance with its language, but also in light of the social and political ideals of the time in which it is administered.

What exactly is minimalism?

Minimalism is a judicial philosophy that emphasizes small judgements over wide legal statements. Minimalists believe that judges should rule on the most specific basis feasible rather than making broad declarations that may have unexpected repercussions. They say that narrow judgements are less likely to alter the balance of power among the judicial, legislature, and executive arms of government, and are more likely to be acknowledged as legitimate by the people.

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Discussion Comments

anon993534

This is incorrect. Judicial philosophy is activism or restraint.

Markerrag

Folks, we're all a lot better with moderates in the judiciary. Conservatives and liberals alike tend to love effectively writing legislation through their decisions instead of simply interpreting the law.

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    • Judicial philosophy regards how Supreme Court justices use their beliefs to make rulings.
      By: trekandshoot
      Judicial philosophy regards how Supreme Court justices use their beliefs to make rulings.
    • Judicial philosophy may determine which judges are appointed to court systems.
      By: 22 North Gallery
      Judicial philosophy may determine which judges are appointed to court systems.
    • A judge who possesses a moderate judicial philosophy makes decisions that can be either conservative or liberal in nature.
      By: Junial Enterprises
      A judge who possesses a moderate judicial philosophy makes decisions that can be either conservative or liberal in nature.