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Judge Dennis Jacobs, "The Secret Life of Judges"



It's fabulous. Go read it right now. (Via Adam Liptak in the Times; see also Ted yesterday at OL). Judge Jacobs, the chief judge of the Second Circuit, delivered the remarks as a lecture at Fordham Law last November.

Almost the entire speech consists of quotable passages, but here is one of the most striking:

Unless we [judges] make an effort, we can become disconnected from the values and perceptions of the larger public. The more we obey the constraints that isolate us within a circle of legal culture, the more we are left to be judged, evaluated, and flattered (or not) by the nourishing, attentive, knowledgeable circle of lawyers, law students, and professors � which (to make matters worse) includes often the most charming and scintillating people in the community. The mystique of the judicial process, and its power and pretension in this country, is pretty much all based on the idea of neutrality. If that idea is deflated, by puncture or slow leak, it is bad for judges and for the larger community. Our work is subject to hostile critiques; and, if we do not acknowledge and restrain our bias, others will notice, and forces will marshal to rein us in.

These critiques are often classified as attacks on judicial independence, and resisted as interference, or dismissed as ignorant. Thus, a great theme of the legal profession is emphatic support for judicial independence. That is a good thing, and I enjoy my independence as much as the next judge; but judges should consider and appreciate that one effect (maybe a motive) of the bar�s avid support of judicial independence is to make judges �independent� of many influences (good and bad) that compete with the dominant influence over judges that is exerted by fellow lawyers, bar associations, and law professors. This support of judicial power by the bar may be a pillar of law, but it can also operate as group loyalty, the protection of turf, or a reciprocal commitment to the ascendency of judges and lawyers.

 

 


Isaac Gorodetski
Project Manager,
Center for Legal Policy at the
Manhattan Institute
igorodetski@manhattan-institute.org

Katherine Lazarski
Press Officer,
Manhattan Institute
klazarski@manhattan-institute.org

 

Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.