Focus on the Family believes that the judicial system plays a vital role in our government, our families and society in general. Therefore, we hold the judicial branch and its officials to a very high standard.
The federal judicial system set up by the Founders held up the ideal of limited judicial authority: Judges should stick to offering "judgment" and exercising "neither force nor will." We think that this system served this country and its citizens well until the Supreme Court began abrogating more and more power to itself in the post-World War II era, leading other courts into doing the same through its example. More importantly, many Americans have acquiesced, through inaction, to the notion that court-mandated social change is acceptable, or at least tolerable, and thus fail to demand accountability of such rogue courts. Instead of being impeached, activist judges are hailed in the liberal press and elite law schools as heroes, which only feeds the problem.
And, since an activist court decision is easier to obtain than a constitutional amendment or even the passage of a law when the majority opposes it, liberals have turned to the courts for enactment of social policies that would otherwise fail at the ballot box. This tyranny by judicial fiat is destructive to our democratic institutions and has resulted in the deaths of millions of preborn human beings, the redefinition of marriage and the trampling of religious freedoms.
"Strict construction" is the judicial philosophy that judges ought to employ when interpreting constitutional provisions or statutes. This includes applying the plain meaning of the language used (a process that has been called "textualism") rather than reading meaning into the language that is not there. Then, if the meaning of the language is still not clear, judges should look at how the drafters of the language and the people who originally applied it to their own lives understood it. This is commonly called "originalism."
The combination of textualism and originalism has been lumped together under the umbrella term "strict construction," even though many legal scholars and jurists, such as Antonin Scalia, prefer to use the phrase "textualist/originalist" to describe themselves. Other scholars simply use the phrase "constitutionalist."
Nevertheless, the concept is the same: Judges should look first at the text and then at the original understanding of the language to discern the meaning of the language. When used to interpret constitutional or statutory language, a strict constructionist philosophy serves as a roadblock to temptations for judicial excursions into personal preferences, while leaving the legislative role for the people and their elected (and accountable) representatives.