Opening Statements

He Said What?


Judge Richard Posner, the renowned jurist of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Chicago, has many admirers. But law professor Robert Blomquist is surely one of Posner’s biggest fans.

Blomquist, who teaches at Valparaiso University School of Law, has read all of the judge’s more than 2,200 opinions from the 25-year period between 1981 and 2006 and put together a book of Posner’s jurisprudential gems.

The Quotable Judge Posner organizes Posner’s quotes alphabetically by subject area of the law. It was published this spring by the State University of New York Press.

Blomquist says he culled down some 700 typed manuscript pages of quotations from Posner’s opinions by looking for those that best demonstrated the judge’s wit, humor and insight into the law and American society, among other qualities. The judge “comes up with just really well-reasoned insights that everybody can learn from,” regardless of their own personal views, Blomquist says.

So what are some of Blomquist’s favorite Posner quotes?

“To paraphrase Gertrude Stein, for purposes of diversity jurisdiction a corporation is a corporation is a corporation.”
Cote v. Wadel (1986)

“Modern judicial opinions tend to be too long, and we shall try to be brief. We shall even forgo the usual prefatory statement of facts, which would disclose an utterly routine, though very large, illegal drug operation.”
U.S. v. Herrera-Medina (1988).

“The filing of an appeal should never be a conditioned reflex. About half the practice of a decent lawyer consists in telling would-be clients that they are damned fools and should stop.”
Hill v. Norfolk & Western Railway Co. (1987)

“Gilding the lily, the officer testified that he was additionally suspicious because when he drove by [the suspect] in his squad car before turning around and getting out and accosting him he noticed that [the suspect] was ‘star[ing] straight ahead.’ Had [the suspect] instead glanced around him, the officer would doubtless have testified that [he] seemed nervous or, the preferred term because of the vagueness, ‘furtive.’ Whether you stand still or move, drive above, below or at the speed limit, you will be described by the police as acting suspiciously should they wish to stop or arrest you. Such subjective, promiscuous appeals to an ineffable intuition should not be credited.”
U.S. v. Broomfield (2005)

“Once a case gets to the jury, all bets are off.”
Speakers of Sport Inc. v. ProServ Inc. (1999)

“Jackson is unquestionably a dangerous and hardened criminal. He has been convicted of armed robbery four times (three were bank robberies—all of the same bank!).”
U.S. v. Jackson (1987)

“This ‘the dog ate my homework’ defense was no defense at all.”
Lowe v. McGraw-Hill Cos. (2004)

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