Synopses & Reviews
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.
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. Joan Pedzich - Library Journal (starred review)
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... 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. New York Times Book Review
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. Kenji Yoshino
andldquo;This engaging book blows the top off the tired old argument over whether humans are selfless do-gooders or relentless self-interest machines. . . . With a series of lively, surprising, and entertaining examples of how we actually behave when the veneer of civilization is gone, this book is a must for anyone who has wondered whether government interferes with our inherently good natures or restrains our inherently bad ones.andrdquo;andmdash;Morris Hoffman, state trial judge, member of the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience, and author of The Punisherandrsquo;s Brainand#160;and#160;and#160;
andldquo;Iandrsquo;ve been a fan of Paul Robinsonandrsquo;s writings on criminal justice for many decades. This book brings his brilliant scholarship to a wider audience in the context of criminal justice issues that affect us all.andrdquo;andmdash;Alan Dershowitz, author of Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law and professor emeritus of law at Harvard Universityand#160;
andldquo;Paul Robinson, perhaps the nationandrsquo;s leading criminal law scholar, has produced a book that raises profound issues while suggesting practical legal reformsandmdash;and he does so in a remarkably entertaining way.andrdquo;andmdash;Paul G. Cassell, former federal judge and Ronald N. Boyce Presidential Professor of Criminal Law at the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utahand#160;
andldquo;Hobbes said a society without punishment would be a jungle. Some modern day academics have suggested it would prove to be a paradise, if we would only give it a chance. Who is right? Both and neither, as Paul and Sarah Robinson show with the help of some extraordinary, insufficiently appreciated andlsquo;natural experiments.andrsquo;. . . Here we learn how justice emerges from nature red in tooth and claw.andrdquo;andmdash;Leo Katz, author of Why the Law Is So Perverse andand#160;Frank Carano Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvaniaand#160;and#160;
andldquo;Fun, fascinating, and full of insight: Pirates, Prisoners, and Lepers will make you reconsider what you think you know about government and its relationship to social order.andrdquo;andmdash;Peter T. Leeson, author of Anarchy Unbound and Duncan Black Professor of Economics and Law at George Mason Universityand#160;
For Richard Posner, legal formalism and formalist judges--notably Antonin Scalia--present the main obstacles to coping with the dizzying pace of technological advance. Posner calls for legal realism--gathering facts, considering context, and reaching a sensible conclusion that inflicts little collateral damage on other areas of the law.
It has long been held that humans need government to impose social order on a chaotic, dangerous world. How, then, did early humans survive on the Serengeti Plain, surrounded by faster, stronger, and bigger predators in a harsh and forbidding environment? Pirates, Prisoners, and Lepers examines an array of natural experiments and accidents of human history to explore the fundamental nature of how human beings act when beyond the scope of the law. Pirates of the 1700s, the leper colony on Molokai Island, prisoners of the Nazis, hippie communes of the 1970s, shipwreck and plane crash survivors, and many more diverse groupsand#8212;they all existed in the absence of formal rules, punishments, and hierarchies. Paul and Sarahand#160;Robinson draw on these real-life stories to suggest that humans are predisposed to be cooperative, within limits.and#160;
What these and#8220;communitiesand#8221; did and how they managed have dramatic implications for shaping our modern institutions. Should todayand#8217;s criminal justice system build on peopleand#8217;s shared intuitions about justice? Or are we better off acknowledging this aspect of human nature but using law to temper it? Knowing the true nature of our human character and our innate ideas about justice offers a roadmap to a better society.
About the Author
Paul H. Robinson isand#160;Colin S. Diver Professor of Law at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the worldandrsquo;s leading criminal law scholars. A prolific writer and lecturer, he is the lead editor of Criminal Law Conversations and the author of Intuitions of Justice and the Utility of Desert, among other books. Sarah M. Robinson is a former sergeant in the U.S. Army and a practiced social worker. She currently works as an author and researcher.