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Learned Hand: The Man and the Judge 2nd Edition

10 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195377774
ISBN-10: 019537777X
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Stanford Law School professor Gunther, a former clerk to Hand (1872-1961) with exclusive access to his mentor's papers, ably portrays the man, perhaps the most important jurist not to serve on the Supreme Court, and explains his work. Christened Billings Learned Hand (the product of family surnames), the teenaged Learned studied philosophy at Harvard, and came by his long-held belief in judicial restraint as a Harvard Law student. Becoming a federal district judge in 1909, Hand in 1917 wrote an unpopular but ultimately influential opinion supporting free speech in a case involving the Masses , a revolutionary organ. Rising to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in 1924, Hand helped improve judicial procedures, wrote numerous worthy opinions, gained respect as a skeptical liberal and helped found the prestigious American Law Institute, an organization aimed at improving the law. Besides describing Hand's cases, Gunther tells of the judge's personal life, his political dabblings and his popularity. The book's only drawback is its length; an abridged version could still assay Hand and reach many more readers. Photos not seen by PW. History Book Club alternate.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Gunther, professor of law at Stanford University Law School and a former law clerk to Judge Learned Hand and Chief Justice Earl Warren, has given us something long overdue-a treasure trove of information and insight into arguably the greatest jurist never to be named to the U.S. Supreme Court. Based in large measure on his access to Hand's private papers, this work provides a critical analysis and evaluation of this "skeptical liberal" who helped shape U.S. law and society for a good portion of this century. Gunther proves convincingly that the demise of first-rate, brilliant judicial biography is exaggerated: in his hands, Judge Hand vividly comes to life not only as an American jurist but as an American philosopher probing the human condition. Critical, comprehensive, and objective, this is scholarship at its finest; it belongs in every scholar's library. Highly recommended.
Stephen Shaw, Northwest Nazarene Coll., Nampa, Id.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 724 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 2 edition (November 10, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 019537777X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195377774
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.8 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,489,328 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Joel Jacobsen on February 11, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Learned Hand was in many ways a great man. A dedicated judge, the gently forgiving husband of a straying wife, a kind and thoughtful person, brilliantly intelligent and clear-thinking - and yet, in the end, almost unknowable. Gunther's biography shines a light on every aspect of the judge's work and personality, including the mystery at his inner core. Hand really wasn't like other people, and Gunther, who knew him personally, captures that.

Gunther's prose is remarkably clear and direct. Another reviewer's remarks about his political bias are just mystifying to me. I don't think Hand's jurisprudence can be classified as either liberal or conservative, and I didn't come away with any sense of Gunther's politics. Frankfurter, the New Dealer, is not depicted as a villain, but rather as one of Hand's closest friends, and an extremely interesting person in his own right.

Judicial biographies are inherently difficult to write, because the subjects' lives tend to be externally uneventful. (Hand virtually never left his native New York state.) Also, old cases are dull unless you really get into them, but to do so requires long digressions from the biographical narrative. This is the only judicial biography I've read that overcomes both problems. I recommend it wholeheartedly.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 23, 1997
Format: Hardcover
An absorbing biography. This portrait of Learned
Hand is as rich in detail and as dynamic in
thought and scope as was the Judge himself.
This book is written in style which is
evocative and accessible. Gunther's review of the
various legal doctrines is understandable without
pandering. Woven throughout the book is a look at
a very exposed human being. Here is a man with
all the phobias and moroses of all men, yet a mind
second to none.
Tired of flat, one dimensional looks at
individuals you wouldn't care about had you
met them personally? Read this book. It will
challenge and ultimately inspire you that there
are books worth reading and people worth
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
LEARNED HAND THE MAN AND THE JUDGE by Gerald Gunther is an 818-page book printed on off-white paper. There are eight pages of glossy black and white photographs, and these include formal, professional photographic portraits, a picture of Learned Hand with his wife on a sailing ship in 1951, photos of three judges in the SECOND CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS, the court where Mr.Hand conducted most of his life's work. I first learned of Mr.Hand from a class on torts, where we read UNITED STATES v. CARROLL TOWING (1947), which was one of Mr. Hand's most famous opinions. Since this case formalized the reasonable man standard, and because my work in patents involves a similar standard called, "phosita," I was interested in learning more. But this book came as a severe disappointment. U.S. v. Carroll Towing is not described in this book. This book does not include any list of Mr. Hand's most influential cases. Although the book is 818-pages long, only tiny fraction of this book (pages151-161; 307-343; 466-478) contains extended narratives regarding Mr. Hand's courtroom opinions. Now, just for the sake of argument, what if you read a biography of Beethoven where less than 10% of the book concerned Beethoven's symphonies, string quartets, and piano sonatas??? You would consider it to be a whacky biography. Right??? And so, it is the case that this book is a really whacky biography. What takes up most of the room in this book? See below.

UNFORTUNATE PROBLEMS. A number of pages are devoted to describing adulation for Mr. Hand. See, e.g., pages 136, 138, 256, 292, 307-315, 506-510. I wish the same space had been devoted to explaining his most influential opinions. Many pages are devoted to Mr. Hand's wife, Frances. Frances was a simple homemaker.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By M. Brooks on October 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Yes, it is very long, but it is fascinating in its study not only of a fascinating man but also of fascinating times. Gunther presents Judge Hand as a complex man who can't be given any one conventional label. He was both liberal and conservative, gentle and explosive, kind and cold, confident and frightened. Judge Hand had many things to say that have influenced who we were then as a culture. His decisions and philosophy continue to help form the foundation of our life in this century. The tenets of free speech that we take for granted today were not common in his day, until he set them out. His warnings about the risk of personal conformance obliterating individuality may have been issued in 1927, but they echo down the decades and are no less valid now. His caustic wit (we'll have to decide this case as if it had been tried by actual lawyers) is still very, very funny. Judge Hand was clearly one of the most intelligent and thoughtful Americans who ever lived, and Gunther does him justice by refusing to shortchange his complexities for the sake of turning his full and fascinating life into a 15-second soundbite. If the book is a long read, read it in many sittings - it stretches out the enrichment.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Rufus James on April 1, 2007
Format: Paperback
As a lawyer, I knew of Learned Hand from his opinions.

Thanks to Professor Gunther, I know about the real life human being who wrote them. Hand was a success at many things, but had more than his share of personal issues. The author does a fine job of blending Hand's personal life with his professional life.

The highest praise that I can offer is that Professor Gunther doesn't write at all like a lawyer. His prose is witty, captivating and entertaining. Somehow, Professor Gunther managed to overcome his legal training long enough to write sparkling prose.

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