Yes, the SCOTUS could have declared slavery unconstitutional (they didn't though...) but that wouldn't have constituted judicial activism so much as it would constitute a correct and originalist interpretation of the Constitution, since the language thereof strictly forbids such an institution.I don't know, but they certainly could have tried. The Constitution explicitly guarantees the states a republican form of government. It isn't much of a stretch to interpret that as including women's suffrage and minority rights...unless, of course, you are wedded to an "original intent" interpretation.
Moreover, the actual effect such a declaration would have on the institution of slavery would have been utterly negligible. The South wasn't about to give up their slaves just because some judges told them to.
Women's suffrage is a bit more subtle an issue, since half our nation's economy wasn't dependent upon denying women the right to vote, so I'm sure a SCOTUS decision rendering such denial unconstitutional would have no doubt passed muster but this returns me to my earlier point, i.e., that this isn't necessarily judicial activism since the Fourteenth Amendment already bound the States and guaranteed equal protection under the law.
I think both Amendments were totally redundant but they still stand as a testament to the legitimacy of the process in bringing about needed changes.
I'm just saying that the judiciary is often representative of contemporary society, which means they can't necessarily be counted upon to radically alter the social norms of their times. Basically, fundamental alterations in our social fabric will only occur if a majority of the people are desirous of it.The President and the people. Are you suggesting that it's just as hard to re-interpret the Constitution from the bench as it is to pass a constitutional amendment? The legal history of our country would beg to differ.
If the coercion is a matter of enforcing the law then I don't suppose it's illegitimate, although I do see your point.If the amendment process is coercive, it's hardly legitimate, right? So I don't see why you tout the 13th amendment as an example of the success of our amendment process being used to implement a good idea. It took a civil war and an occupation of the South, and was hardly passed because that's what the southern states WANTED.