Grand Centrism and the Centrist Judicial Personam
Louis D. Bilionis
University of Cincinnati College of Law
North Carolina Law Review, Vol. 83, 2005
U of Cincinnati Public Law Research Paper No. 06-23
This article discusses Justice Anthony Kennedy's bold brand of centrism on issues of liberty, termed grand centrism, and distinguishes it from minimalist centrism, primarily represented by Justice O'Connor. Grand centrism recognizes the criticality of popular faith in a constitutional center of shared values. Kennedy does not lose sight of the imperative of clarity for the non-legal world. His grand centrism recognizes the Court's capacity to inspire faith and engagement, not only in the legal community but in American citizens generally. Unlike with minimalist centrism, compromise is not the goal, and therefore the losing side may not be satisfied at all in a particular case.
The article reviews several scholars' attempts to list what values are in fact shared today by Americans under the Constitution and then discusses grand centrism's self-conscious maintenance of those values. Kennedy is a grand centrist only with regard to liberty jurisprudence. With federalism and national power issues, Kennedy's centrism is more purposely positioned between more extreme views, termed conceptual moderation. And when the Constitution's grand scheme is at issue, Kennedy is more the dutiful lawyer than the grand centrist, strictly adhering to set rules of law. The article also discusses Kennedy's judicial personam in light of political centrism, and it responds to critics of Kennedy.
Keywords: Supreme Court, Judicial Philosophy, Constitutional Law
JEL Classification: K39, K40, K41, K49
Date posted: September 20, 2006