Center for Judicial Engagement

[ju-di-cial en-gage-ment] (noun): The act of properly judging, by focusing on the facts of every case, remaining impartial, and requiring the government to justify its actions with reliable evidence.

The Institute for Justice fights to ensure that Americans enjoy the full measure of freedom that the U.S. Constitution and state constitutions guarantee. But those protections are meaningless unless judges are committed to enforcing them.

We need a consistent, principled approach to judging that is capable of keeping government in check. That approach is judicial engagement. The Institute for Justice’s Center for Judicial Engagement (CJE) educates the public about the proper role of the courts in enforcing constitutional limits on the size and scope of government.

What the Constitution Requires

“The Constitution requires judicial engagement, not judicial abdication.” 

Florida ex rel. Attorney General v. US Dept. of Health and Human Services, 648 F. 3d 1235 (2011).

“Judicial engagement”—the refusal for courts to defer to the government simply because it is the government—is as old as the U.S. Constitution itself. As Alexander Hamilton explained in Federalist No. 78, it is the duty of judges to “guard the Constitution and the rights of individuals.” 

Too often, judges have forgotten or rejected their duty to guard our constitutional liberties, and instead have reflexively upheld laws that violate our rights.  In Federalist No. 78, Hamilton warned that although “liberty can have nothing to fear from the judiciary alone,” liberty “would have every thing to fear” if the judiciary were to “unite” with the other branches of government. Reflexive deference to the government irrespective of constitutional limits is judicial abdication of the duty to “guard the Constitution.”

How CJE Fights Back

CJE pursues its mission in a number of different ways. It sponsors events where judges, professors, and members of the bar and the general public come together to discuss the issues of the day in relation to judicial engagement. It sponsors scholarship, op-eds, and other writing on our constitutional liberties and the courts’ role in protecting them. This includes the CJE Blog, where our team of legal experts comment on contemporary legal events, our weekly newsletter Short Circuit, which provides an informative, entertaining, and (sometimes) irreverent take on the rulings of the federal circuit courts, and our series on Twitter #50Weeks50Constitutions, reviewing our 50 state constitutions. CJE also engages with the public through podcasts and videos, most prominently Bound By Oath, a documentary-style and historically-focused examination of constitutional liberties, and our bi-weekly podcast Short Circuit, the companion to our newsletter.

The CJE Team

Director of the Center for Judicial Engagement: Anthony Sanders
Editor & Producer, Short Circuit & Bound By Oath: John Ross
Judicial Engagement Fellow: Adam Shelton

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