What is a Judicial Author?
21 Pages Posted: 20 Jan 2010 Last revised: 18 Sep 2011
Date Written: January 18, 2010
This paper examines the ways in which judges write opinions, the ways experienced and inexperienced legal readers conceptualize judges as authors, and the effect these conceptions have on the way they read those opinions. The paper describes judicial writing as a quintessential example of collaborative writing, a view corroborated by the ways experienced lawyers use and interpret judicial opinions in practice. The judicial opinion is not, as lay opinion grounded in the Romantic view that forms contemporary common wisdom would have it, the original work of the wise and creative judge pronouncing from on high. Rather, the opinion itself is a piece cobbled together from a number of other sources that include established law, the lawyers' written and spoken legal arguments, secondary legal sources, and earlier opinions that were themselves built up from the bits and pieces floating through the legal discourse community. Nevertheless, conventional legal thinking has since at least the 19th Century through today propounded the notion of the judge as quintessentially Romantic author-creator. This clash between legal practice and the conventions of legal (and especially academic) discourse poses real and neglected problems in legal education, especially in the ways the Romantic view of judicial authorship instills in students habits of reading.
Keywords: Judicial Opinions, Legal Writing, Rhetoric, Foucalt, Richard Posner, Legal Rhetoric, Legal Analysis
JEL Classification: K19, K41, Z00
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation