A Definition of Judicial Restraint

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Definition: Judicial restraint is a legal term that describes a type of judicial interpretation that emphasizes the limited nature of the court's power. Judicial restraint asks judges to base their judicial decisions solely on the concept of stare decisis, which refers to an obligation of the court to honor previous decisions.

Conservative judges often employ judicial restraint when deciding cases, unless the law is clearly unconstitutional.

Judicial restraint is the opposite of judicial activism, in that it seeks to limit the power of judges to create new laws or policy. In most cases, the judicially restrained judge will decide a case in such a way as to uphold the law established by Congress. Jurists who practice judicial restraint show a solemn respect for the separation of governmental problems.

Strict constructionism is one type of legal philosophy espoused by judically restrained judges.

Pronunciation: juedishool ristraent

Also Known As: judicial limitation, judicial prudence, ant. judicial activism

Examples: According to Time Magazine, former Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist held "himself out as an apostle of judicial restraint."