For most of us, "judicial activism" only becomes a problem when the a judge is doing something we don't like. I'll admit that I'm a lot less likely to consider the proper role of the courts when I hear about a decision that seems just and right to me. But Judge Manning's "sound basic education" rulings force even the most supportive observer to consider the question of judicial overreaching.
The News-Record has an editorial up today that concludes:
If [Manning is] overstepping his authority, it's because the appropriate officials haven't stepped up. Now they have to, or else defy a judge who's fed up with failing schools.
There's a good conversation to be had about whether Manning is practicing judicial activism—we ought to try to agree that he is or isn't. But that conversation has got to include a recognition that court is where we end up when the other branches of government have failed. Much of the progress of the civil rights movement took place in federal courtrooms because the states, along with the federal legislative and executive branges, couldn't get it up to defend equal rights for all citizens. Were the judges activists? Probably. Were they wrong? Certainly not.