Posner dishes on senile federal judges, judicial snark and law prof 'refugees' in upcoming book

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Some federal judges continue working despite senility. One federal appeals court is so divided that the opposing factions won’t eat lunch together. Some law professors are “refugees” escaping from more competitive or less lucrative fields.

Those are some of the criticisms expressed by Judge Richard Posner in an upcoming book set for release in January, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog reports. The book, Divergent Paths, is touted as an examination of the gap between the judiciary and law schools, but it is more of a critique of the two branches of the legal profession, according to the Law Blog.

Posner, a judge on the Chicago-based 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, spends “hundreds of pages detailing the shortcomings of judges, law professors and students,” according to the Law Blog. It obtained a review copy of the book and highlighted eight “provocative passages.” They include:

• “Some federal judges do not work very hard, and for reasons unrelated to age or infirmity. It’s not so much that they don’t put in the hours; it’s that they tend to treat the job as a civil service sinecure and duck the intellectual challenges that face a federal judge ….

“Not being subject to compulsory retirement and able to delegate much of their work to staff, federal judges sometimes fail to retire even when old age and its related ills have greatly impaired their judicial performance. To be blunt, there is a problem of judicial senility and it is growing with the general increase in the longevity of the American population.”

• “Sometimes the members of an appellate court don’t get along with each other—which is not actually a big surprise, when one bears in mind the resemblance of an appellate court to marriage in a culture of arranged marriage with no divorce. Lack of collegiality may be expressed in snarky or even intemperate dissents and concurrences, in judges’ nitpicking of the opinions of colleagues even when agreeing with the analysis in those opinions, in slow voting on opinions circulated by the other judges, in rivalry; in professional jealousy. … In one of the federal courts of appeals today the judges of opposing factions will not eat lunch together.”

• “The increase in the number of law schools has caused a reduction in the average quality of law school graduates and a concomitant reduction in the average quality of lawyers who practice in the federal courts. And the increased size of law school faculties has resulted in an increased number of the faculty members whom I’ve termed ‘refugees’ from more competitive or less lucrative fields and who have little interest in the actual judicial process and little ability to contribute to that process.”

Story was updated to correct typographical errors.

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