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Reflections on Judging Hardcover – October 7, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (October 7, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674725085
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674725089
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #189,069 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


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 New York Times Book Review 2013-11-10)

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. (Joan Pedzich Library Journal (starred review) 2013-09-01)

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. (Frederick Schauer, University of Virginia School of Law)

About 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.

More About the Author

Richard A. Posner is a judge of the U.S. Court Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School. He is the author of numerous books, including Overcoming Law, a New York Times Book Review editors' choices for best book of 1995 and An Affair of State: The Investigation, Impeachment, and Trial of President Clinton, one of Times' choices for Best Book of the Year in 1999 and a Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist, 2000.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By David K. Bissinger on November 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Judge Posner's "Reflections" is a readable and witty overview of the challenges facing the judiciary and legal profession in a time of increasingly complex cases.

Judge Posner invites lawyers and judges to tackle the increased complexity of the law in at least three ways. First, he urges lawyers and judges to use pictures and simplify their briefs and opinions. For example, he writes that "seeing a case makes it come alive to judges," yet "[l]awyers' lack of a visual sense . . . is a striking professional deformity. I do not understand it. Information can often be presented more efficiently in pictorial than verbal form." He also tells lawyers and judges to use "coloring book" facts, such as stories or other background material (even if outside the record) to help the reader understand "the technological or commercial setting of a case."

Second, despite his reputation as a legal theorist, Judge Posner has practical tips to improve jury trials based on his experiences from serving as a trial judge. Among other things, he advocates time limits on trials and recommends that judges use more frequently their power to appoint neutral experts.

Third, Judge Posner presents his "Posner model" of avoiding excessive reliance on junior lawyers or clerks preparing briefs and opinions. He correctly observes that the growth of associates in law firms and law clerks in the federal courts has contributed to the unnecessary lengthening of briefs and opinions. He goes as far as to present an opinion from a federal appeals court that takes up several pages of text and compares his version, which takes a little more than a page. The difference is striking.

In short, Judge Posner's "Reflections" should help lawyers and judges to argue and rule more effectively and with more style and more professional satisfaction. Hopefully, in the process, this will improve the public's confidence in the judicial system.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ronald H. Clark VINE VOICE on December 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is easy to see from this book why Judge Posner has become the most frequently cited legal commentator. His range of interests is immense, ranging from law and economics, to national security issues, to the 2000 election, and various jurisprudential topics. Recently, he has focused on his colleagues, federal judges, in several books. This book continues that interest. It is diverse in topics and approaches; but always informative and stimulating.

First, to illustrate how one can be selected for the federal judiciary, he devotes the introductory chapter to a brief autobiography. He is particularly interested in suggesting issues that new judges should consider as they ascend the bench. He also introduces one of his major concerns: increasing technical "complexity" that faces judges as they adjudicate challenging cases.

To fill in background, Posner next discusses the evolution of the federal judiciary. He raises here several of his fundamental concerns: excessive growth of staff; should law clerks on the appellate level be assigned initial drafting responsibility for opinions (a vehement no!); and the adoption of basic managerial tools to structure judicial caseloads.

A third chapter is devoted to his key concern of "complexity." I found this very long chapter not to be particularly effective. He does a better and shorter job on this in his Introduction to the book. One important point that does emerge is that courts may generate their own complexity by deciding cases in a "formalistic" way rather than employing a realistic approach. This reflects Posner's recent shift toward pragmatism in his writings. He develops this theme in depth in his chapter four.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By David Keymer TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 18, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Judge Posner () starts many of the chapters in this book with quotations. None capture what the book is about better than very first, on page one, a well know quotation from Albert Einstein:

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.

For one of the themes of this mature work by an influential judge and scholar of the law is how judging, and the law, have become more complicated than they need to be or is good for them today. Posner concludes this exceptionally rich and helpful book by saying:
Federal judges are falling behind. The problem is not caseload; it is case complexity. Judges aren’t coping well with the increased complexity, mainly but not only scientific and technological, of modern society. … We judges are not inhabiting this new world comfortably. Rather than try to understand the world outside our books and traditions, we (most of us anyway) burrow deeper into as complex world of our own making. As if to validate Coke’s claim that law is a species of “artificial reason.” Legal formalism is tightening its grip on the judiciary at as time when legal realism has never been more needful. We are complexifying the judicial process when we should be simplifying it, and neglecting the unavoidable complexities pressing in on us from outside the legal culture when we should be embracing and overcoming them.

This is a book about three things principally:

1. An analysis of the flawed nature of legal formalism (as argued for by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia) and a call for a more modest but also more honest and flexible (and thus useful) approach to judging that he calls legal realism.

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