The Realism of Judges Past and Present

15 Pages Posted: 7 Oct 2008 Last revised: 10 Jan 2009

See all articles by Brian Z. Tamanaha

Brian Z. Tamanaha

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law

Date Written: 2008


Political scientists regularly assert that judges are deluded or deceptive about the nature of judicial decision making. This article shows, to the contrary, that for more than a century judges have candidly expressed a balanced realism about judging. Judges admit that sometimes they must make law. Judges admit that law is sometimes uncertain. Judges admit that their personal values can have an influence on their legal decisions. All of these limitations are inherent to law and to judges as human decision makers. Judges insist that despite these limitations, their decisions are substantially determined by the law. This article demonstrates that judges have much to say about judging that is reliable and insightful.

Suggested Citation

Tamanaha, Brian Z., The Realism of Judges Past and Present (2008). Cleveland State Law Review, Vol. 56, 2008; St. John's Legal Studies Research Paper No. 07-0085. Available at SSRN:

Brian Z. Tamanaha (Contact Author)

Washington University in St. Louis - School of Law ( email )

Campus Box 1120
St. Louis, MO 63130
United States

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