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Outspoken Judge Critical of Supreme Court Justices

November 1, 2016

Judge Richard Posner, of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently spoke out regarding Supreme Court Chief Justices and the criteria used to select those nominated to the Nation’s highest court of appeals.  During a promotional speaking engagement for a new biography about Posner, the judge indicated that his new book, called Strengths and Weaknesses of the Legal System is “almost entirely about the federal judiciary…. So I have about 10 pages on the strengths and about 320 pages on the weaknesses. 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.”

Posner went on to state that his biggest complaint about the current Supreme Court Justices is that most, have little or no trial experience.  He firmly believes that for a Chief Justice to be effective and qualified to hear cases, that the judges should have some trial experience and if they do not, should actively seek out opportunities to gain this experience at the district court level. In fact, Judge Posner has led by example by doing just that, in the district level courts near his post in Chicago.

Posner acknowledges that two Chief Justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Steven G. Breyer, are in his opinion, more qualified to sit in their current positions, since they do have some trial experience.  Posner argues that in the US, there are thousands, or tens of thousands of attorneys and judges that have paper credentials that qualify them to be on the Supreme Court.  Typically, other factors, often go into Chief Justice appointments, such as race, gender, political affiliation etc.  Posner’s point is that sometimes, those appointed based on these factors alone, are not the most qualified to sit on the highest court in the US. Rather, there are likely many other judges in the US that are better equipped to preside over high level appellate cases, due to their extensive trial background.

Posner’s book release will likely bring up the discussion again, especially since the prospect of filling Justice Scalia’s open seat on the Court will be at the top of our new President’s agenda.  Read the entire article from the ABA Journal here.

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