cover image Divergent Paths: The Academy and the Judiciary

Divergent Paths: The Academy and the Judiciary

Richard A. Posner. Harvard Univ, $29.95 (402p) ISBN 978-0-674-28603-0

Federal appellate judge Posner (Reflections on Judging) analyzes problems in the federal judiciary and ponders how a shift in the focus of law-schools could address them. The prolific and outspoken jurist pulls back the curtain on how his colleagues behave, noting the extent to which outcomes can be dictated by what he dubs judges’ priors: “the impulses, dispositions, attitudes, beliefs, and so on that they bring to a case.” Posner recites a litany of ways in which federal appellate judges fall short, including a reliance on inexperienced law clerks to draft opinions and various barriers to obtaining the “sophisticated scientific, technical, and financial information” they need to reach the right result. He believes that a different approach by law schools might make a difference, with academics producing scholarship that would be more useful to judges and schools improving judicial education. Given his equally harsh assessment of the state of the academy, which he believes is now dominated by interdisciplinary approaches at the expense of tradition, readers may have a hard time feeling optimistic about reforms. Posner’s insights would be more useful had he followed some of his own advice and used plain language, and his points could have been made more efficiently. (Jan.)