Unpacking the Idea of a Judicial Center
University of North Carolina Law Review, Vol. 83, 2005
186 Pages Posted: 22 Oct 2004
This article describes the evolution of the various ways in which the term judicial center has been articulated, with special emphasis on the connections between shifting versions of the idea and the jurisprudential perspectives driving commentary on the Supreme Court by political scientists, journalists, and legal scholars. It then seeks to explain, in light of that description, why the idea of a judicial center is currently perceived by many commentators as an important point of reference for their observations on the dynamics of the current Court. It concludes with some observations about how an understanding of the idea of a judicial center might be sharpened by further scholarly investigations.
The article's methodology, which emphasizes the unpacking and historicizing of terms and concepts in American constitutional jurisprudence and commentary, is intended to blend historical analysis with observations on contemporary constitutional issues. It assumes that evocative labels and concepts in American constitutional jurisprudence, such as judicial liberalism, conservatism, or centrism, have universal and contextual dimensions that need to be unraveled before they can be meaningfully employed. It also assumes that such labels and concepts have dominant meanings in particular periods of time which are replaced by other dominant meanings. Techniques of intellectual history can help demonstrate the precise contextual meaning of evocative labels and concepts in given historical periods.
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