The judicial philosophy of Richard Posner

IN a profession marked by pomp and pretence, Richard Posner, who is retiring from the judiciary, is a renegade. For Dick, as he is known to his staff, the tradition of clerks addressing their bosses as “judge” exemplifies the judiciary’s stodginess and resistance to innovation. In his decades as a writer and a jurist, Mr Posner, aged 78, “changed the legal landscape”, says Eric Segall, his collaborator and a law professor at Georgia State University. Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law School says Mr Posner has had a “uniquely broad influence” on the legal academy and on America’s courts.

Few of the nearly 200 circuit-court judges who handle appeals from America’s 94 district courts make headlines. Mr Posner grabs many. The judge’s “staggering work ethic” and “fierce intellect” start to explain his renown, Mr Segall says. Mr Posner is the most-cited legal scholar of all time, according to a 2000 study. He has written more than 3,000 judicial opinions, hundreds of articles and...

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