New Book: The Roberts Court: The Struggle for the Constitution. By Marcia Coyle

The Roberts Court: The Struggle for the ConstitutionThe Roberts Court: The Struggle for the Constitution. By Marcia Coyle. Simon & Schuster 2013. ISBN: 1451627513; 9781451627510.


The Roberts Court, seven years old, sits at the center of a constitutional maelstrom. Through four landmark decisions, Marcia Coyle, one of the most prestigious experts on the Supreme Court, reveals the fault lines in the conservative-dominated Court led by Chief Justice John Roberts Jr.

Seven minutes after President Obama put his signature to a landmark national health care insurance program, a lawyer in the office of Florida GOP attorney general Bill McCollum hit a computer key, sparking a legal challenge to the new law that would eventually reach the nation’s highest court. Health care is only the most visible and recent front in a battle over the meaning and scope of the U.S. Constitution. The battleground is the United States Supreme Court, and one of the most skilled, insightful, and trenchant of its observers takes us close up to watch it in action.

Marcia Coyle’s brilliant inside account of the High Court captures four landmark decisions—concerning health care, money in elections, guns at home, and race in schools. Coyle examines how those cases began—the personalities and conflicts that catapulted them onto the national scene—and how they ultimately exposed the great divides among the justices, such as the originalists versus the pragmatists on guns and the Second Amendment, and corporate speech versus human speech in the controversial Citizens United campaign case. Most dramatically, her analysis shows how dedicated conservative lawyers and groups are strategizing to find cases and crafting them to bring up the judicial road to the Supreme Court with an eye on a receptive conservative majority.

The Roberts Court offers a ringside seat at the struggle to lay down the law of the land.

New Book: Reflections on Judging. By Richard A. Posner

Reflections on Judging. By Richard A. Posner. Harvard University Press 2013. ISBN: 0674725085, 9780674725089


Reflections on JudgingIn Reflections on Judging, Richard Posner distills the experience of his thirty-one years as a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Surveying how the judiciary has changed since his 1981 appointment, he engages the issues at stake today, suggesting how lawyers should argue cases and judges decide them, how trials can be improved, and, most urgently, how to cope with the dizzying pace of technological advance that makes litigation ever more challenging to judges and lawyers.

For Posner, legal formalism presents one of the main obstacles to tackling these problems. Formalist judges—most notably Justice Antonin Scalia—needlessly complicate the legal process by advocating “canons of constructions” (principles for interpreting statutes and the Constitution) that are confusing and self-contradictory. Posner calls instead for a renewed commitment to legal realism, whereby a good judge gathers facts, carefully considers context, and comes to a sensible conclusion that avoids inflicting collateral damage on other areas of the law. This, Posner believes, was the approach of the jurists he most admires and seeks to emulate: Oliver Wendell Holmes, Louis Brandeis, Benjamin Cardozo, Learned Hand, Robert Jackson, and Henry Friendly, and it is an approach that can best resolve our twenty-first-century legal disputes.


“A deep and thought-provoking collection of insightful analyses of various aspects of being a judge, told from an insider’s perspective, but with appropriate and equally thoughtful caveats about the advantages and disadvantages of an insider’s account.”—Frederick Schauer, University of Virginia School of Law

Table of Contents

Introduction: A Judge on the Challenges to Judges
Two Kinds of Complexity
Extrajudicial Writing by Judges
Plan of the Book
Appendix: External versus Internal Complexity in Federal Adjudication

1. The Road to 219 South Dearborn Street
Education and Early Career
The Federal Judicial Appointment Process in 1981
Transition, and the Question of Initial Judicial Training

2. The Federal Judiciary Evolves
A Half-Century of Change
Input-Output, with Special Reference to the Supreme Court
Staff and Specialization in Relation to Rank

3. The Challenge of Complexity
Complexity Further Explained
Examples, Primarily from Criminal Law and Sentencing
The Impact of Technology
Judicial Insouciance about the Real
Specialization the Solution?
Internal Complexity: The Case of the Bluebook

4. Formalism and Realism in Appellate Decision Making
The Formalist Judge
The Realist Judge
Advice to New Appellate Judges

5. The Inadequate Appellate Record
Internet Research by Judges
Is a Word Really Worth a Thousand Pictures?

6. Coping Strategies for Appellate Judges I: Judicial Self-Restraint
Thayer and His Epigones
The Decline of Self-Restraint
The Rise of Constitutional Theory
Thayerism’s Death and Legacy

7. Coping Strategies for Appellate Judges II: Interpretation
The Spirit Killeth, but the Letter Giveth Life
Dreaming a Constitution
Opposites Attract and Repel
Realist Interpretation

8. Make It Simple, Make It New: Opinion Writing and Appellate Advocacy
The Signs of Bad Judicial Writing
The Writer Model versus the Manager Model
Management versus Managerialism
The Formalist Opinion
Rules of Good Opinion Writing
The Morris Opinion
Some Tips on Appellate Advocacy
Appendix: United States v. Morris (Original and Rewritten)

9. Forays into the District Court
Expert Witnesses and Trial by Jury: An Anecdotal Introduction
Party-Appointed and Court-Appointed Expert Witnesses
The Jury
Jury Trials in Patent Cases
Internet Research by Jurors
Other Issues
Appendix: Jury Instructions in Chamberlain v. Lear

10. What Can Be Done, Modestly?
Initial Judicial Training
Continuing Judicial Education
The Widening Gap between Academia and the Judiciary
The Role of the Law Schools in Continuing Judicial Education
MOOCs to the Rescue?

Conclusion: Realism, the Path Forward

Richard A. Posner is Circuit Judge, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School.