WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama, preparing to make his second nominee to the Supreme Court, warned Wednesday of a "conservative" brand of judicial activism in which the courts are often not showing appropriate deference to the decision of lawmakers.
Obama made clear that his views on judicial restraint are not the only basis he will use in choosing his next nominee for the high court, a decision expected over the next few weeks.
But his comments underscore just how much he thinks courts are being vested with too much power and are overruling legislative will, a factor that will influence his nominee choice.
Obama already has openly criticized the Supreme Court for a January ruling – one led by the court's conservative members – that allowed corporations and unions to spend freely to influence elections. Obama has vowed to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens with a like-minded justice who will not let powerful interests crowd out voices of ordinary people.
On Wednesday, when asked about judicial activism as he spoke with reporters aboard Air Force One, Obama spoke of judges who ignore the will of Congress and the democratic process, imposing judicial solutions instead of letting the political process solve problems.
"In the '60s and '70s, the feeling was, is that liberals were guilty of that kind of approach," Obama said. "What you're now seeing, I think, is a conservative jurisprudence that oftentimes makes the same error."
He said the notion of judicial restraint should apply to liberal and conservative jurists. Instead, the president said arguments over original intent and other legal theories end up giving judges a lot of power – sometimes more power than elected representatives have.
Obama said judges should presume that the laws produced by the House and Senate and state legislatures should get "some deference as long as core constitutional values are observed."