Reflections on Judging

Overview

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 ...

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Reflections on Judging

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Overview

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.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Kenji Yoshino
In his introduction, Posner states that judges rarely "offer pointers to other judges" and hopes "this aspect of the book doesn't strike my judge readers as an impertinence." Yet his willingness to speak to his readers—judges or otherwise—as a jurist with three decades of experience is a strength of this book…If it is fortunate, a legal generation has a Tenth Justice. I invoke the phrase not as it is sometimes used, to denominate the solicitor general, but rather as it was used to refer to Learned Hand, the famed appellate judge who never warmed a seat on the Supreme Court. By dint of relentless merit, these individuals earn legal authority akin to that wielded by the Nine. In Richard A. Posner, our generation has its Learned Hand, its Henry Friendly. In complex times, we can take comfort in the simple fact of his existence.
New York Times Book Review - Kenji Yoshino
Reflections on Judging…is about what judges should do when confronted with complexity. Like the rest of us, judges face an increasingly bewildering world, marked by daily advances in such areas as social media, the sciences and globalization. Unlike the rest of us, judges must make decisions that enforce their understanding—or misunderstanding—of that complexity onto millions… [Posner’s] willingness to speak to his readers—judges or otherwise—as a jurist with three decades of experience is a strength of this book… Reflections on Judging is spangled with legal cases in which Posner, faced with disorder, triumphantly cuts through the noise… In Richard A. Posner, our generation has its Learned Hand, its Henry Friendly. In complex times, we can take comfort in the simple fact of his existence.
Frederick Schauer
A deep and thought-provoking collection of insightful analyses of various aspects of being a judge, told from an insider's perspective, but with appropriate and equally thoughtful caveats about the advantages and disadvantages of an insider's account.
Library Journal
★ 09/01/2013
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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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674725089
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 10/7/2013
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 179,948
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

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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