Out of Order: Arrogance, Corruption and Incompetence on the Bench


Hear about the judge who got busted for selling crack? What about the judge who released from jail a felon who then promptly killed a rookie cop? Or the one who ordered a prison to supply its inmates with hot pots? In Out of Order: Arrogance, Corruption, and Incompetence on the Bench, investigative reporter Max Boot documents dozens of stories like these as he blows the whistle on the least publicized, the most destructive, branch of the government—the compelling statistics to support his belief that judges have ...

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Hear about the judge who got busted for selling crack? What about the judge who released from jail a felon who then promptly killed a rookie cop? Or the one who ordered a prison to supply its inmates with hot pots? In Out of Order: Arrogance, Corruption, and Incompetence on the Bench, investigative reporter Max Boot documents dozens of stories like these as he blows the whistle on the least publicized, the most destructive, branch of the government—the compelling statistics to support his belief that judges have greatly damaged both the criminal and civil justice systems.Boot criticizes well-known judges like Lance Ito, who presided over the O.J. Simpson follies, and Harold Baer, the New York judge who initially decided to exclude from evidence eighty pounds of drugs because he found nothing “unusual” about a courier fleeing from the cops. He reveals judges who have taken advantage of their office not only for personal gain, but also to gain greater political power.The “juristocracy,” as Boot calls it, has taken over the running of schools, prisons, and other institutions, with disastrous results: forced busing, which has led to white flight from inner-city schools; higher taxes, as judges have ordered more government spending, regardless of results; and greater social divisions, because judges have taken controversial issues like abortion out of the political arena. Rundowns of case after case reveal judges who have routinely overturned popular initiatives without legal right to do so, implemented controversial policies with no basis in law, and put millions of dollars into the pockets of undeserving plaintiffs.Following in the footsteps of the bestselling Death of Common Sense and Slouching Towards Gomorrah, Out of Order is a tightly reported, highly opinionated expose that should set off a national debate about the woeful state of our legal system. It also offers hope, by providing ways to improve the performance of the judiciary and reclaim its original role as servant of the people.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"Judges have assumed unprecedented authority over our lives, usurping powers once delegated to elected lawmakers, based on no solid grounding in the text of either a statute or the Constitution itself," contends "Wall Street Journal" deputy features editor Boot. Though his somewhat right-leaning biases are occasionally visible beneath his research-based approach, Boot's strong writing and even-handed journalism make for a powerful case. (Former Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork's turgid introduction, full of references to "radical egalitarianism," is one example of the less-than-transparent politics that inform the book.) With humor and wit, Boot describes a society caught up in a lottery mentality, whereby juries routinely make outrageous punitive damage awards on the flimsiest of cases, and judges often politically savvy lawyers rather than judicious legal experts fail to throw out frivolous cases and awards. Only a revision of the system by which we select and promote judges, Boot contends, is likely to change the situation. Boot's impressive grasp of the law and his wry, crystal-clear argumentation makes this book one that will be indispensable to anyone curious to know how we managed to turn our society into a gridlock of litigiousness.
Library Journal
Boot, editorial features editor for the "Wall Street Journal", finds judges to be incompetent and corrupt; abusive of the particular trust that comes with their office, they advocate unacceptable social experimentation. Still, Boot can find some worthy judges. Federal district judge Richard Matsch of Denver is one even though he is mildly rebuked in Chapter 5 for his intervention in the Denver public school district. And that may be the true weakness of this book. Boot writes with such broad strokes as to become incredible. The compilers of one standard judicial directory, "The American Bench" (Foster-Long, 1997. 9th ed.), gathered more than 18,000 federal and state judicial biographies. Surely more than a mere handful are competent, ethical, and deserving of our trust. Yet it would be wrong to dismiss this book as unworthy. The concluding chapter advances a number of policy items that merit consideration: judicial term limits, e.g., limits on the jurisdiction of judges to hear constitutional challenges. This book will find favor with more conservative readers. Recommended generally for public libraries. Jerry E. Stephens, U.S. Court of Appeals Lib., Oklahoma City
Kirkus Reviews
A one-stop store of conservative complaints about the judiciary; in trying to eliminate lemons, the author mixes oranges and apples. "We need more public criticism and exposure to hold judges accountable for their actions," says Boot, who is editorial features editor for the "Wall Street Journal." Citing numerous examples culled from his years of reporting, he takes aim at what he identifies as judicial impropriety: favoring cronies, following ideological prejudice instead of legal precedent, permitting juries to impose enormous liability judgments, going easy on criminal defendants, usurping executive and legislative powers, refusing to follow the voters' will, and engaging in financial corruption. He lays blame on the judicial selection process, which rewards political loyalty above legal competence; at politicians who give judicial nominees too little scrutiny; and at the voters, who seldom pay any attention to elected judges' performance. Although Boot makes no secret of his rightward tilt (he thinks 'Brown v. Board of Education' was bad constitutional law, wants to discard the exclusionary rule on illegally obtained evidence, and seems never to have met a corporate defendant he didn't like), he's intellectually honest; for example, he criticizes conservative judges who have struck down affirmative-action programs crafted by state governments, and even rebukes some of the ideas propounded by Robert Bork, who wrote the book's foreword. But his foundation for lumping together examples of utterly different behaviors, that the courts "are trying to provide a remedy for every conceivable `victim' " is weak. In the end, the only element tying together the judge who takes bribes andthe one who gives pro-plaintiff jury instructions in a product-liability case is simply that Boot dislikes both forms of conduct. Neither a screed nor a "balanced" report, this well-written and often witty book should give zest to those who agree with Boot's biases and food for thought to those who disagree.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465053759
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 5/28/1999
  • Pages: 272
  • Lexile: 1310L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Max Boot is a senior fellow in National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. His writing has appeared in many publications, and he has twice been a finalist for the Gerald Loeb Award. His previous book, Out of Order: Arrogance, Corruption, and Incompetence on the Bench, was published by Basic Books in 1998. He lives with his wife and three children in Westchester County, New York.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 25, 2008

    A reviewer

    From the opening chapter it appeared that this book was going to be an entertaining look at outliers in the judicial system. The devolution into tired, right wing whining about 'liberal judges' with 'no accountability' was sad. Especially considering many of the cases cited were overturned or set right by higher courts, thus proving that the system, while certainly imperfect, does work. The author should have just been honest and prepared the reader for a conservative take on activist and lenient judges rather than making a flimsy claim of journalistic or even-handed analysis.

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