Friday, January 29, 2016

Richard A. Posner’s ‘Divergent Paths: The Academy and the Judiciary’

by Kermit Roosevelt

New York Times

January 29, 2016

If Richard Posner did not exist, who would dare invent him? The most-cited legal scholar of all time, who is arguably America’s greatest living judge; a man who publishes a book a year while writing all his own judicial opinions; an icy ration­alist who once confessed to unrequited love for his cat. . . . It’s all a bit too much to believe. Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Gene Roddenberry’s Mr. Spock are probably the closest anyone has come.

Fortunately, Posner does exist. A judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit since 1981, he remains a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School and from these dual positions continues to produce an astounding amount of work. He made his reputation as a scholar by pioneering the economic analysis of law in the 1970s and since then has ranged widely, covering topics like the relationship between law and literature, the regulation of sex, the 2000 election and antiterrorism. Recently he has turned his attention to the federal judiciary and written two books, “How Judges Think” and “Reflections on Judging.”

His latest, “Divergent Paths,” continues that trend, though its aim is less illumination than critique and reform. The book has two parts. The first, and longer, identifies problems facing the modern federal judiciary; the second offers suggestions for how law schools might alleviate them. Both display Posner’s characteristic clearheaded insights. “Divergent Paths” is a valuable contribution to debates over the future of federal courts and law schools alike.


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