Our lonely chief justice

Warning that the decision would lead to “a major expansion of the judicial role,” the chief justice wrote: “Until now, we have said that federal courts can review the legality of policies and actions only as a necessary incident to resolving real disputes. Going forward, the judiciary will be required to perform this function whenever a plaintiff asks for a dollar.”

Beyond those practical implications, what makes the decision notable is what it says about conservatives’ current view of courts. The question of standing is an important aspect of the larger question of who gets access to the courts, and until recent years, conservative judges took a narrow view of standing. That was consistent with their constrained view of the role of the federal courts. A wide-open courthouse door was seen as an invitation to judicial activism.

Once part of the conservative DNA, that attitude began to change as “judicial activism,” once an epithet, morphed into “judicial engagement,” now a laudable goal in conservative circles. After all, the courts are increasingly friendly. Why avoid them? Why not use them?