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Henry Friendly, Greatest Judge of His Era Hardcover – March 27, 2012

4.4 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

[A] meticulous biography. (Kirkus Reviews 2012-01-15)

Dorsen...has written a first-rate biography of a judge whose opinions had great influence on the law and legal scholarship. (Michael Eshleman Library Journal 2012-02-01)

[Dorsen] constructs an intricate account of how Friendly diligently shaped the landscape of American law. (Adam White Wall Street Journal 2012-03-16)

Dorsen's biographical sketch offers some fascinating pieces of American legal history, and Posner's introduction is a valuable evaluation of Friendly by a fellow judge...Friendly merits study not as a model for other judges but as a rare example of legal genius. (David Marcus The Deal 2012-04-13)

About the Author

David M. Dorsen is Of Counsel to Sedgwick LLP, based in Washington, D.C.

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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press; First Edition (US) First Printing edition (March 27, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674064399
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674064393
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.6 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #114,430 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An effective judicial biography focuses upon certain key elements of the judge's life: family background and education; professional career at the bar; how the subject became a judge; interactions on the bench if an appellate judge; and some taste of his judicial writings. By all these measures, this biography of Henry J. Friendly (1903-1986), who had a most distinguished and influential career on the Second Circuit between 1959 and 1986, more than satisfies. Not much I am aware of has been written about Friendly the man, and one definitely comes way from this extensive bio (about 500 pages including text, notes, and index) with a good sense of the man under the robe.

The book follows Friendly from his childhood in Elmira, NY, to Harvard Law School where his record was so strong as to rival that of Louis Brandeis. Here he encounters Felix Frankfurter and is elected president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review. Graduating in 1927, FF sends him off to clerk for Brandeis on the Supreme Court. More than the author, apparently, I think this period of working with LDB shaped Friendly's work habits and personality. Next, Friendly engages in a 32-year private practice career, and helps found the current firm of Cleary Gottlieb. His practice is heavy on administrative law, an area about which he would write extensively while on the bench and in publications. I am always intrigued by how one gets selected for the bench, and the author offers a short but insightful chapter on how Friendly made the cut (it is always helpful to have influential friends).
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As a law student in the US I came across the jurisprudence of Judge Friendly and was impressed by the razor-sharp wit and mental acuity behind the opinions. Having read Judge Posner's foreword I thought I would enjoy this biography (in spite of the fact that judges are usually leaden characters who reserve their wit for their lectures rather than for their own lives) and I wasn't disappointed. In Dorsen's able hands Judge Friendly comes alive as the greatest appellate judge of his generation. He was ridiculously smart (apparently everyone in his family, his wife's family as well as virtually anyone he ever worked with was smart as well), hardworking and honest. I was particularly interested in reading how his role as an appellate judge made him even more important in legal history than he would have been as a Supreme Court Justice. Altogether an excellent book.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book consists of interesting chapters and portions on the life of Judge Henry Friendly, a reknowned judge of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals for many years and somewhat less interesting chapters on his court decisions and written opinions, even to a legal scholar. The latter group were less readable, sometimes imperfect in their analysis, and a big, long read -- thankfully grouped into chapters by legal topic. It's a combination of a biography and a survey of his legal decision making and his legal positions on a great many subjects. Extensive footnotes make it useful as a reference work, almost in the style of a law review article.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Henry Friendly's life may not excite readers of pulp fiction. However, it was a priviledge for me to have worked for him 60 years ago and witness first hand his accuity, wit and skill at making things complex simple. He said that if there was a 1 cent word available, he always preferred it to 2 or 10 cent words. Great Judges and lawyers work behind curtains of confidentiality. This man's life richly deserves being opened to show a wider world the benefits of modest wisdom coupled with caring enormously for the rule of law. Perhaps this book could become required reading at law schools to teach more about what it means to be a real lawyer.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mr. Dorsen's exhaustive research has produced a first-class resource on the life's work of one of 20th-century America's great legal minds. It's "must reading" for every judge and serious student of American law. It brings us an inside view of how the judicial mind, at its very best, can and should work.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As advertised, this book provides insight into an individual "warts and all". He graduated from high school at age 16 and, according to the author, attained the highest marks ever received by a Harvard Law School graduate. (Judge Brandeis being the other scholastic competitor.) This is a judge whose opinions from the 2nd Circuit are legendary; many were used almost verbatim in a number of Supreme Court decisions. His opinions could be incisive and succinct; they could also be occasionally capricious. He was a true student of the law with an extraordinary ability to reduce his thoughts to the fundamentals. In addition, he was one of the great teachers of jurisprudence;a pedagogue in the best sense. If you clerked for Judge Friendly there was no room for error. Supreme Court Justice John Roberts was his clerk in 1979. (One wonders what judge Friendly would think of Justice Robert's decisions.) That said, this gentleman exemplified H.D. Thoreau's notion that "...men live lives of quiet desperation." He was deeply troubled, essentially a recluse with very few personal relationships including with his own children. In a real sense, this book is an exploration into the pathology of genius. His death was troubling.
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