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Study Notes

Judicial Restraint

AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

Judicial Restraint is the belief that justices should not seek to ‘legislate’ from the bench, this should be left to the legislature and executive. To this end greater stress should be placed upon the rulings of lower courts. Typically restrained courts will have a smaller docket.

The Rehnquist Court is often defined as a restrained court. For example in Planned Parenthood v Casey, the court upheld the right to an abortion, continuing the decision of the Warren Court.

Generally speaking courts that are defined as restrained, tend to have a majority of conservative justices, who would favour the restrained approach to judicial rulings. Contrasting to this is Judicial Activism which is a label that would typically be applied to more liberal courts.

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