Judge Richard Posner of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is often in quarrel, but never in doubt.
The notoriously candid — some say solemnly pompous — Posner is probably one of the most influential jurists in American history never to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court (his only company in this regard is probably Judge Learned Hand.) He had harsh words for his judicial brethren at the high court during a discussion of William Domnarski’s newest book on Posner’s favorite subject.
“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. Probably only a couple of the justices, Breyer and Ginsburg, are qualified. They’re okay, they’re not great.”
He has previously called Breyer “bricoleur” in his 2008 book “How Judges Think.” He continued along this line, suggesting the poor caliber of judges is a function of a hyper-politicized confirmation process who depend on intellectually-gifted law clerks to craft their opinions.
“So the politicians figure, well, we’re appointing this person because he or she is of a particular race, or comes from a special part of the country, or this or that, or is liberal or is conservative. And this person is not particularly bright and doesn’t have much experience — never been in a trial courtroom, for example — but, there are all these brilliant law clerks working, so their opinions will be all right, because the law clerks will write them.”
On at least one point, the Poz is technically incorrect. Two of the Court’s sitting justices do have criminal trial experience. Justice Samuel Alito prosecuted cases regularly as an assistant U.S. attorney in New Jersey. Justice Sonia Sotomayor was also a prosecutor before her appointment as a U.S. District Court judge. In this capacity, she regularly presided over federal criminal trials. (RELATED: Judges Rip Indiana Lawyer Fighting To Keep Syrian Refugees Out Of State)
He made the remarks in connection with a discussion of his forthcoming book on the federal judiciary.
Some legal observers wondered if Posner was letting slip some professional sour grapes.
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