Most Cited Legal Scholar of All Time Calls Current Supreme Court “Awful”
You may not know the name of Judge Richard Posner, but it would be no exaggeration to call him a legal giant. He was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit by President Reagan in 1981, and went on to serve at the Chief Judge of that court for 7 years. He is a graduate of both Yale and Harvard, and has been a faculty member at Stanford Law School and the University of Chicago Law School. He is also the author of 40 books on law and economics. A study published in 2000 named him as the most cited legal scholar of all time, and by a wide margin.
In a C-SPAN appearance earlier this month to promote his biography (by William Domnarski), Posner revealed he is writing a new book he is calling Strengths and Weaknesses of the Legal System. Posner regards one of the weaknesses to be the United States Supreme Court.
I have about 10 pages on the strengths and about 320 pages on the weaknesses. I’m very critical. I don’t think the judges are very good. I think the Supreme Court is awful. I think it’s reached a real nadir.
Posner did not hesitate to name names. He regards Justices Ginsburg and Breyer as “qualified” and their opinions “readable, and sometimes quite eloquent.” And of the remaining 6 current justices?
The others, I wouldn’t waste my time reading their opinions.
If this weren’t pointed enough, Posner went on to call the dissent by Justice Alito in the recent Texas abortion clinic case as the “most tedious opinion I’ve ever read”.
Unsurprisingly, these comments. have been causing shockwaves throughout the legal community since they were made. Earlier this week, Posner explained his remarks to a prominent legal blog. In particular, he wanted to clarify his use of the word “qualified”.
There are something like 1.2 million American lawyers, some of whom are extremely smart, fair minded, experienced, etc. I sometimes ask myself: whether the nine current Supreme Court Justices (I’m restoring Scalia to life for this purpose) are the nine best-qualified lawyers to be Justices. Obviously not. Are they nine of the best 100? Obviously not. Nine of the best 1,000? I don’t think so. Nine of the best 10,000? I’ll give them that.
I know I said some harsh things in my bookstore talk about the Supreme Court and the Justices. I stand by all that. I think the Court is at a nadir. I don’t think it’s well managed and I don’t think the Justices are doing a good job.