One of the frequent criticisms of the federal judiciary in recent years has been “judicial activism.” Judges should not make policy, the argument goes. They should scrupulously adhere to the task at hand, evaluating cases strictly on the legal issues involved. Most specifically, judges should not interject their own views or preferences into legal decisions. Policy-setting should remain the exclusive province of the legislative branch.

Yesterday, the U.S. District Court in New Orleans handed down a decision blocking the moratorium on deep-water drilling projects recently imposed by the Obama administration. The ruling was made after a group of businesses which provide services to offshore drilling platforms filed suit. The state of Louisiana joined the lawsuit on the basis of the negative economic impact to the state of the suspension of deep sea exploration. In ruling in favor of the requested injunction, the judge noted that “oil and gas production is quite simply elemental to gulf communities.”

All well and good. This is a matter with two clearly defined sides: environmental safety and long term economic preservation of the region on the one hand, short-term economic loss on the other hand. But that is a policy matter, not a legal one. Do we really want the courts to have the power to intervene every time any single constituency feels an action is contrary to its economic interests? This is manifestly judicial activism. Where is the outcry against it?

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