The travel ban case is headed to the Supreme Court by way of the once redoubtable Fourth and always activist Ninth Circuits, leaving revisionists to wonder how it might have unfolded had it made its way upward through Judge William H. Pryor’s Eleventh. Pryor’s view of the judicial role exhibits appropriate assertiveness within its sphere and a fitting humility beyond it.
The signaling model of education is pretty well known these days. Starting with Nobel-prize winning economist Michael Spence’s article on “Job Market Signaling” in the early 1970s, the extreme version of the model articulates a reason schooling would exist even if it did not increase human capital in the least. The canonical story goes something like this: There are two types of workers, high quality and low quality. Employers want to hire high-quality workers, and would be willing to pay them more. But they can’t tell high-quality workers apart from low-quality workers. If a potential employer were to ask applicants…
Judicial activism always undermines the rule of law. Rarely, however, does it also endanger national security. Yet the federal judges who have blocked President Trump’s executive orders on immigration have done just that.
The lawlessness of the courts in question has been exposed by a group of five dissenting judges on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. As these judges so ably observe, the federal district courts that ruled against the President’s policy simply ignored binding precedents—of both the Ninth Circuit and the Supreme Court—recognizing the legal authority of the President to act as he did. Moreover, these judges achieved their aim by deploying an utterly novel application of the First Amendment, holding that an executive order that does not even mention religion somehow violates the Establishment Clause.
Americans are united in professing respect for the Constitution, but they are deeply divided over what it actually means and how it ought to be interpreted. These disagreements have roiled our public life for decades. Everybody who follows politics knows about the clashes between the liberal proponents of judicial activism and the conservative defenders of judicial deference. These arguments go on and on, with neither side succeeding in persuading the other of the superior merits of its theory. Faced with this ongoing deadlock, we wonder if there is any way to achieve unity on the meaning of the Constitution.