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Friday, January 3, 2014

Jurist Prudence? Candid Judges Speak Out

Judges typically confine their opinions to their rulings. But 2013 was a year of exceptions.
In Nebraska, U.S. District Judge Richard G. Kopf in February launched Hercules and the umpire, a blog that offers a mix of insights on the judicial process, legal news, personal reflections and wisdom. One nugget of advice to young judges: "It's not your job to save the world. Do law, leave justice to Clint Eastwood."
In his latest book, "Reflections on Judging," Judge Richard Posner of the Seventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago pleads "guilty" to upholding a voter-identification law "now widely regarded as a means of voter suppression." The passage, picked up by several media outlets, was widely viewed as a mea culpa—a rare instance of a judge saying he got it wrong.
Judges have long been voluble, spirited and even poetic in their rulings. But in the digital age, they also have taken to the media and the Internet to pass judgment on policy and opine on trends.
In the process, the outspoken are butting up against the view held by some that sitting judges shouldn't be seen or heard outside of court. And there is the risk that litigants could try to push certain judges off cases because something they said publicly gave a hint of bias.
"The advice I was given over and over again was to keep your head down," said Nancy Gertner, a law professor at Harvard University and a former federal district judge in Massachusetts who has...
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