Reflections on Judgingby Richard A. Posner
In Reflections on Judging, Richard Posner distills the experience of his thirty-one years as a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Surveying how the judiciary has changed since his 1981 appointment, he engages the issues at stake today, suggesting how lawyers should argue cases and judges decide them, how trials can be/i>
In Reflections on Judging, Richard Posner distills the experience of his thirty-one years as a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Surveying how the judiciary has changed since his 1981 appointment, he engages the issues at stake today, suggesting how lawyers should argue cases and judges decide them, how trials can be improved, and, most urgently, how to cope with the dizzying pace of technological advance that makes litigation ever more challenging to judges and lawyers.
For Posner, legal formalism presents one of the main obstacles to tackling these problems. Formalist judges--most notably Justice Antonin Scalia--needlessly complicate the legal process by advocating "canons of constructions" (principles for interpreting statutes and the Constitution) that are confusing and self-contradictory. Posner calls instead for a renewed commitment to legal realism, whereby a good judge gathers facts, carefully considers context, and comes to a sensible conclusion that avoids inflicting collateral damage on other areas of the law. This, Posner believes, was the approach of the jurists he most admires and seeks to emulate: Oliver Wendell Holmes, Louis Brandeis, Benjamin Cardozo, Learned Hand, Robert Jackson, and Henry Friendly, and it is an approach that can best resolve our twenty-first-century legal disputes.
Posner (circuit judge, U.S. Court of Appeals; How Judges Think) uses his judicial experience as a platform for an in-depth discussion of the challenges facing the federal judiciary, chief among them the growing complexity of federal cases. He examines the impact of complexity as it pertains to the subject matter of cases being heard and as it exists in courts' own systems, habits, and traditions. He analyzes the difference between legal formalism (adherence to established principles for interpretation of laws and the Constitution) and legal realism (fact- and context-based jurisprudence) and advocates for a wider application of the latter. There is an excellent chapter in which the author indicts appellate opinion writing as needlessly verbose, esoteric, and rich in "gratuitous internal complexity." He proffers solutions to bad writing with rigorous yet practical guidelines for improvement, which, though directed toward appellate opinion writers, might be applied in all legal writing. Posner is a precise, erudite writer with a strong point of view enriched by specific examples accumulated over the course of three decades of professional experience and observation. VERDICT Posner's insights will resonate with jurists and those who practice before them. His book is highly recommended for those in the legal profession and other court watchers.—Joan Pedzich, formerly with Harris Beach PLLC, Pittsford, NY
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Meet the Author
Richard A. Posner is Circuit Judge, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School.
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