978-0-465-05432-9 / 9780465054329

Out Of Order: Arrogance, Corruption, And Incompetence On The Bench


Publisher:Basic Books



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About the book:

Max Boot, who wrote the excellent "Rule of Law" editorial column in the Wall Street Journal for several years, has written what he admits to be a polemic. Polemic; need not be a derogatory word when the book is informative and entertaining. Out of Order is aimed at the evils of judges. Some of those evils--corruption and drug dealing--are obvious. Others--such as broad constitutional interpretations, desegregation of Virgina Military Institute, and application of the Miranda doctrine--are debatable, though Boot mostly sidesteps those debates.

Having foresworn objective analysis, Boot also admits to a lack of solutions to the problems he identifies. While he proposes a handful of reforms that do little to address what he criticizes, he rejects a wide variety of radical proposals with a few sentences each. Boot suggests more scrutiny of judges through lawyers' reports and public debate. Left unspoken is the fact that the most prominent public debate of judicial decision-making in the last 12 years involved the author of his introduction, Judge Robert Bork, and came to a result Boot disliked. And Boot's endorsement of rating judges by lawyers ignores that such ratings have as often resulted in unfair criticism of judges (including one Boot singles out as a good egg) for holding lawyers to strict standards as it has to expose incompetence that remains unaddressed.

So what's left is a long list of anecdotes, loosely organized by them, tied together only by their common desire to criticize. Thus, Judge Ito should not have let the Simpson trial be overrun by publicity, but a Chicago judge is hit for earthily barring attorneys from talking to the press.

In one chapter, judges have too much power and abuse it; in another, incompetents fill the judiciary because smart lawyers can have more influence by refusing appointments. The reader is to assume that the mere fact Boot has held these judges up to criticism should be enough.

For a more reasoned analysis of the judicial system, see Richard Posner's The Federal Courts (1996). Those wishing for the polemic can read either Robert Bork's The Tempting Of America (1991) or Ralph Nader's No Contest (1996), depending on your preconceived political bent. --Ted Frank

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