cover image How Judges Think

How Judges Think

Richard A. Posner, . . Harvard Univ., $29.95 (387pp) ISBN 978-0-674-02820-3

Posner is unique in the world of American jurisprudence, a highly regarded U.S. appellate judge and a prolific and controversial writer on legal philosophy (The Little Book of Plagiarism ). Opinionated, sarcastic and argumentative as ever, Posner is happy to weigh in not only on how judges think, but how he thinks they should think. When sticking to explaining the nine intellectual approaches to judging that he identifies, and to the gap between legal academics and judges, and his well-formulated pragmatic approach to judging, Posner is insightful, accessible, often funny and a model of clarity. When he charges off into longstanding arguments with fellow legal theorists (liberal commentator Ronald Dworkin, for one) or examines doctrinal discrepancies in the opinions of Supreme Court justices, he writes for a far more limited audience. For the record, although Justice Scalia is a favorite target, none of the Supreme Court nine escapes Posner's lethally sharp pen. Posner's two major points—that to a great extent judges make decisions based not on theory but on who they are, their gender, education, class and experiences, and that “the Supreme Court is a political court” regardless of what theory of constitutional interpretation justices claim—are well worthwhile and deeply rooted in common sense and experience. (Apr.)