PUBLISHED:January 06, 2016

Siegel testifies on judicial activism and the Supreme Court

Prof. Neil S. Siegel

Neil S. Siegel, the David W. Ichel Professor of Law and Professor of Political Science, testified about recent Supreme Court rulings, judicial activism, and proposals to reduce the independence of the federal judiciary before a subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on July 22. An expert in U.S. constitutional law and theory and the federal courts, Siegel told the Subcommittee on Oversight, Agency Action, Federal Rights and Federal Courts that “the ‘activism’ label is either over-inclusive or misleading.

“A charge of activism seems to be an effort to accuse certain Justices of some kind of serious procedural error apart from the substance of the ruling,” Siegel wrote in testimony submitted in advance of the hearing. “But it does not accomplish that purpose, and we would be better off simply debating whether the ruling was right or wrong.” He observed that the hearing closely followed the Supreme Court’s controversial rulings in King v. Burwell and Obergefell v. Hodges, which respectively upheld tax credits under the Affordable Care Act and the right of same-sex couples to marry.

It is appropriate and vital for Americans and their elected representatives to “discuss, criticize, and consider proportionate responses to decisions of the Supreme Court with which they disagree,” Siegel wrote. But he argued against any “fundamental restructuring” of the constitutional relationship between Congress and the Court that would occur with jurisdiction stripping or a constitutional amendment implementing retention elections for justices as proposed by the subcommittee chairman, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

Siegel co-directs the Program in Public Law and directs the D.C. Summer Institute on Law and Policy.

Watch video of the hearing here.

Read more about Siegel's testimony