Was the ruling reached in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010) an example of judicial activism? 

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rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Generally speaking, the term "judicial activism" describes justices who "legislate from the bench" by going beyond either the role prescribed by the Constitution to the judiciary or by moving well beyond established precedent in making a decision. The Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Citizens United overturned existing judicial precedent as established in Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce (1990) and McConnell v. Federal Election Commission (2003) to rule that parts of the McCain-Feingold campaign reform act that limited corporate spending in support of political candidates were unconstitutional. It applied First Amendment protections to corporate speech, which had not previously been established in federal jurisprudence. In this sense, the decision represented an example of judicial activism on the part of the majority. The Court went against the bulk of precedent in making their decision.