If you were to poll North Carolinians on an open-ended question about what they think the biggest threat to liberty is in the state, there would certainly be lots of different and diverse answers. You might even see responses like “climate change” and “Yankees moving here.” Democrats might say “Republicans” and vice versa. However, a strong case can be made that judicial activism poses the greatest threat to liberty in North Carolina. Certainly, it’s a top long term threat of the right to self-government.
Judicial activism made headlines once again in 2019 when a Wake County Superior Court Judge ruled unconstitutional two of the constitutional amendments that the state legislature and voters passed. In fact, the voter ID and the lower tax cap amendment were easily passed by North Carolinians at the ballot box in November, despite well organized and funded opposition.
“An illegally constituted General Assembly does not represent the people of North Carolina and is therefore not empowered to pass legislation that would amend the state’s constitution,” Judge G. Bryan Collins wrote in a ruling issued in February.
The gerrymandering reach is a ridiculous one, of course, giving judges the power to essentially nullify a law they disagree with politically. Judicial activism dilutes the will of the people, who are ultimately the guarantees of our liberty and freedom. It should be laughable that a Wake County Superior Court Judge can deem an entire state legislative body not valid while simultaneously sticking their middle finger out at the voters.
At the same time, I don’t mean that we live in a land where the majority always rules or that judges don’t have a strong role under our separation of powers system. In essence, as we saw with Judge Collins, the systemic threat is the Left using the courts to enact what they can’t enact through the legislative or voting process. I believe that’s why it’s important to have at least a working definition of judicial activism. A good definition of judicial activism is definitely enacting a law or torpedoing the lawmaking by bypassing the legislative process. Furthermore, whether the judiciary acts on its own basis instead of through clear constitutional means when it comes to interpretation of the law.
Thomas Jefferson was one of the early opponents of judicial activism, saying: “The Constitution is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary, which they may twist and shape into any form they please.”
North Carolina is a state that is changing rapidly, in part because of urbanization and an influx of new residents. That is why it’s essential that voters pay attention to the judges that are on the ballot in this state and they look for judges that will interpret and not make law. Our laws and particularly our state constitution matter and they should be honored from the bench. Our U.S. Constitution and the North Carolina constitution are documents that limit the scope and reach of government, while judicial tyranny and oligarchies quickly and nefariously erode liberty.