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How Judges Think

3.8  ·  Rating Details ·  214 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
A distinguished and experienced appellate court judge, Richard A. Posner offers in this new book a unique and, to orthodox legal thinkers, a startling perspective on how judges and justices decide cases. When conventional legal materials enable judges to ascertain the true facts of a case and apply clear pre-existing legal rules to them, Posner argues, they do so straightf ...more
Hardcover, 387 pages
Published April 1st 2008 by Harvard University Press
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I had read some of Richard Posner's How Judges Think in draft last year, but have resumed reading the book now that it has appeared. Every member of the United States Senate should read it, so that we might have meaningful confirmation hearings on federal judges. Our public discourse about what judges really do proceeds at an infantile level; Judge Posner's bracing book could help it grow up. His criticisms of the self-serving and often delusional rhetoric of current members of the U.S. Supreme ...more
Robert Wechsler
Jul 30, 2016 Robert Wechsler rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
This book is not, of course, really about how judges think; it is about the various approaches judges (particularly federal appellate judges, of which Posner is one) take to statutes and the Constitution, and how their political views interact with these approaches. It is also an argument in favor of pragmatism in most instances (this is Posner’s approach), and a criticism of the other approaches. The result is far from a dry study. Posner’s writing skills and passion as a critic make this an ex ...more
Oct 27, 2008 Geoffrey rated it it was ok
A more accurate title would be: "How Posner Thinks."
Nov 08, 2008 Vladimir rated it liked it
Recommended to Vladimir by:
This passage from page 287 is insightful, and although I disagree with Posner I appreciate his position. While referring to the Constitutionality of Federal laws and actions can be used to advance a particular partisan agenda (think about every time somebody has mentioned their first amendment right), that doesn't prevent somebody who believes in the rule of law to consistently cite the Constitution. With all due respect to the legalists in the Bush administration (none), they're as wrong as the ...more
Jan 13, 2009 Justin rated it it was amazing
I might be a bit more pre-disposed to the material than were I, say, an electrical engineer, hence that might have something to do with the rating. But he's a fantastic writer, the material is very articulate, and yet straightforward. nutshell observations: Posner discusses at length the inherent limitation of textualism/originalism as a legal/constitutional theory in a non-civil law system (that is, our statutes are not comprehensive to provide for every conceivable situation, it is thus left t ...more
I decided to read this book mostly because Posner is well known and also because the book is in the Atlanta Fulton County Public Library. The book is not necessarily easy to follow and perhaps didn't really answer very well for me the question about how judges think. I was interested to see that Posner appears to be somewhat conservative. He critiques the Supreme Court Justices and appears to be saying that their decisions are based more on ideology rather than necessarily completely rational ba ...more
May 29, 2009 Bethany rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
Posner, a federal judge, wrote this book outlining how he thinks judges make decisions - a process he dubs 'pragmatism.' They don't actually base decisions on precedent or even on the Constitution or the statute much of the time, he claims, they make political judgments instead and then look for evidence to justify their decisions. That may be true, and I did learn a lot from this book, but I also got the sense that Posner is a bit full of himself and that grew tiring. No one would be interested ...more
David Cowhig
Apr 09, 2016 David Cowhig rated it it was amazing
An inside view of the judge's art -- more than an art that the legalists would allow. Critiques of some recent judges and discussion of how law professors and judges don't understand one another due to different professional environments and experiences. Yet this gap needs to be closed somehow so that the next generations of lawyers will get a better education in the law.
Mary Ann McGrail
Jul 23, 2008 Mary Ann McGrail rated it really liked it
This is Posner at his best - engaging, informative, a quick read. He takes on the heavyweights in the field, and fellow members of the judiciary - in particular Justice Kennedy. It's a realistic account of aspects of the judging process.
Nov 22, 2014 Giuseppe rated it really liked it
Shelves: law
I'm a liberal, Posner isn't. Yet it's difficult not to be swayed by such a thoughtful and intelligent person. I respect the man because he's an open book, with no hidden agenda. And he's an intellectual powerhouse. I'll read anything he publishes.
May 28, 2015 Daniel rated it liked it
This is an extremely dense but very interesting summary of several various judicial styles, best taken in short chunks. It would perhaps be less interesting to those who aren't legal wonks, but if you have even a passing interest in how federal courts work, this is worth a read.
Sep 10, 2010 Andrew rated it really liked it
Very interesting book about the way judges work and think. It was a little above my head in parts, and I think I'd like to read it again down the road one day. It took a while to read, as it didn't exactly flow well from point to point. But it definitely made me think.
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Allan H. Goodman
Aug 07, 2014 Allan H. Goodman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very interesting analysis of how judges think.
Major Doug
Jun 13, 2013 Major Doug rated it did not like it
under-paid, but under-worked
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  • The Nature of the Judicial Process
  • The Common Law
  • Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges
  • The Winning Brief: 100 Tips for Persuasive Briefing in Trial and Appellate Courts
  • A History of American Law
  • Making Our Democracy Work: A Judge's View
  • Ladies And Gentlemen Of The Jury: Greatest Closing Arguments In Modern Law
  • Closed Chambers: The Rise, Fall, and Future of the Modern Supreme Court
  • The Supreme Court: The Personalities and Rivalries That Defined America
  • The Conservative Assault on the Constitution
  • The Legal Analyst: A Toolkit for Thinking about the Law
  • The Hollow Hope: Can Courts Bring About Social Change?
  • Law, Liberty, and Morality
  • The Bill of Rights: Creation and Reconstruction
  • An Introduction to Legal Reasoning
  • The Firm, the Market, and the Law
  • Supreme Power: Franklin Roosevelt vs. the Supreme Court
  • Typography for Lawyers
Richard Posner is Senior Lecturer in Law at the University of Chicago Law School.

Following his graduation from Harvard Law School, Judge Posner clerked for Justice William J. Brennan Jr. From 1963 to 1965, he was assistant to Commissioner Philip Elman of the Federal Trade Commission. For the next two years he was assistant to the solicitor general of the United States. Prior to going to Stanford
More about Richard A. Posner...

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“But the fact that judges follow precedent regularly even though not invariably does not support the legalistic theory as strongly as one might expect. The original precedent in a line of precedents could not have been based on precedent.” 1 likes
“I do not apologize for these terms or, more generally, for discussing judicial thinking in a vocabulary alien to most judges and lawyers. Judicial behavior cannot be understood in the vocabulary that judges themselves use, sometimes mischievously. (11)” 0 likes
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