George Greer and “judicial activism”

Ed Kilgore’s New Dem Dispatch yesterday about the Terry Schiavo case—set within a larger argument about activist judges—brings up a point I haven’t heard before:

Now, let’s take a look at those “robed masters” in Florida who Kristol says are trampling on democracy in so egregious a manner that Washington must intervene. Unlike federal judges, all Florida state judges serve limited terms of six years, and can be deposed by voters at the end of each term. Moreover, Florida’s Circuit Court judges, its trial judges, must face a non-partisan election every six years with opponents given every opportunity to run against them.

Consider Circuit Court judge George Greer, whom Kristol basically accuses of deciding, as an act of judicial arrogance, against saving Terri Schiavo’s life. Greer was re-elected by the voters of his circuit last year by a two-to-one margin, despite drawing an opponent who was strongly supported by those angry at his role in the Schiavo case.

Messing around on Google, you get a lot of hits for “George Greer” and “activist judges,” as one might expect, but it’s important to remember that the latter term doesn’t really mean anything. (In case anyone needs a refresher, read Don Herzog here, here, and here as to why, oddly enough, there’s no “one obvious interpretation” of the Constitution.) This goes double in Greer’s case. The courts approved of his decision. Voters approved of his decision. It was all part of a well-functioning democratic process. Obviously there will be people who disagree, and that’s fine, but in this case nearly everyone, it seems, save for Tom DeLay and some hyperactive right-wingers in Congress thought Greer did a fine job handling a hard case. So who, pray tell, is the activist here?


Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2019 demands.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.