In my Encyclopedia Britannica column this week, I take a look at "the responsibility of judges to strike down laws, regulations, and executive and legislative actions that exceed the authorized powers of government, violate individual rights, or fail to adhere to the rules of due process."
Certainly they don't always live up to those expectations, as Robert A. Levy and William Mellor wrote in The Dirty Dozen: How Twelve Supreme Court Cases Radically Expanded Government and Eroded Freedom.
The column might have been more timely last summer, when Judge Andrew Napolitano concluded one of his Freedom Watch programs on the Fox Business Channel by hailing four federal judges who had courageously and correctly struck down state and federal laws:
- Judge Martin L. C. Feldman, who blocked President Obama’s moratorium on oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico;
- Judge Susan Bolton, who blocked Arizona’s restrictive immigration law;
- Judge Henry Hudson, who refused to dismiss Virginia’s challenge to the health care mandate; and
- Judge Vaughn Walker, who struck down California’s Proposition 8 banning gay marriage.
That was a good summer for judicial protection of liberty. But as I note, there have been more examples this year, reminding us of James Madison's predictions that independent judges would be "an impenetrable bulwark against every assumption of power in the legislative or executive."