Is the Rehnquist Court an 'Activist' Court? The Commerce Cause Cases

17 Pages Posted: 16 Mar 2012

Date Written: March 15, 2012


In United States v. Lopez, the Supreme Court, for the first time in sixty years, declared an act of Congress unconstitutional because Congress had exceeded its powers under the Commerce Clause. In 2000, the Court reaffirmed the stance it took in Lopez in the case of United States v. Morrison, once again finding that Congress had exceeded its powers. Are these examples of something properly called "judicial activism"? To answer this question, we must clarify the meaning of the term "judicial activism." With this meaning in hand, the author examines the Court's Commerce Clause cases. The answer he gives to the question of whether the Rehnquist Court is an "activist" court is "no."

Keywords: Judicial activism, Rehnquist Court, Commerce Clause, Constitutional law

JEL Classification: K00, K1, K3

Suggested Citation

Barnett, Randy E., Is the Rehnquist Court an 'Activist' Court? The Commerce Cause Cases (March 15, 2012). University of Colorado Law Review, Vol. 72, 2002; Georgetown Public Law Research Paper No. 12-045. Available at SSRN:

Randy E. Barnett (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States
202-662-9936 (Phone)


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