Judiciary

Judge Posner Critic of 'Goofy' Trend in GOP, Says He’s Becoming Less Conservative


Judge Richard Posner is a big fan of two conservative icons: President Ronald Reagan and economist Milton Friedman.

Posner owes his job on the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to an appointment by Reagan. But he tells National Public Radio he’s becoming less enamored with the Republican Party.

Over the last 10 years, Posner said, there has been “a real deterioration in conservative thinking” that is leading people—himself included—to re-examine their own beliefs. “I’ve become less conservative since the Republican Party started becoming goofy,” he told NPR.

Posner told the network that conservative criticism of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. could backfire. Roberts voted to uphold the health care law’s insurance mandate based on Congress’ power under the tax law; unidentified sources have told CBS News that Roberts switched his vote in the case.

This is part of Posner’s comment: “What would you do if you were Roberts? All the sudden you find out that the people you thought were your friends have turned against you, they despise you, they mistreat you, they leak to the press. What do you do? Do you become more conservative? Or do you say, ‘What am I doing with this crowd of lunatics?’ “

Posner also spoke to Reuters in an interview that focused on patent law. Posner recently sat as a trial judge in a patent dispute between Apple and Motorola, dismissing the case after concluding neither side is entitled to an injunction or damages.

Posner told Reuters there has been “a proliferation of patents” and questioned whether they are really necessary in some industries. In software development, for example, innovations cost less and companies benefit from being the first to the market. “It’s not clear that we really need patents in most industries,” he said.

Posner had told litigants at the beginning of the Apple Motorola case that his tech devices show his neutrality, the Reuters story says. He used a court-issued BlackBerry but accepted an upgrade to an iPhone, which he uses only to check email and call his wife. “I’m not actually that interested in becoming part of the smartphone generation,” said Posner, who is 73.

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