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“I’d just remind conservative commentators that for years what we’ve heard is the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint, that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law,” Mr. Obama said. “Well, there’s a good example, and I’m pretty confident that this court will recognize that and not take that step.”

But according to Mr. Rosen, Mr. Obama has the credibility he needs to complain about judicial activism.

“This is something he’s been doing since long before he became president, so he has standing to make this argument,” Mr. Rosen said, pointing out that Mr. Obama wrote a chapter about it in his book “The Audacity of Hope.” “He’s been preparing for more than a decade to criticize judicial activism whether it’s supported by conservatives or liberals.”

Ilya Shapiro, a fellow at the Cato Institute, said both sides like to throw the term “judicial activism” at the court when it makes decisions they oppose. But in his view, the justices should only be concerned with whether the court interprets the law correctly under the Constitution.

” ‘Judicial activism’ is everybody’s favorite bogeyman, but neither the left nor the right can provide a definition beyond Potter Stewart’s famous dictum: ‘I know it when I see it,’ ” Mr. Shapiro said, referring to the former Supreme Court justice who said he couldn’t define pornography but that he knows it when he sees it.
“Most people who use the term don’t have a coherent definition of it,” he said. “It typically just means judicial opinions with which they disagree.”