Umpires as Legal Realists

Posted: 23 Jul 2010

See all articles by William Blake

William Blake

University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) - Department of Political Science

Date Written: July 23, 2010


During his confirmation hearings, then-Judge John Roberts analogized the role of judges to the role of a baseball umpire. Roberts argued that umpires do not make the rules; they simply apply them. Legal scholars have criticized Roberts from a legal realist perspective because the analogy misconstrues the nature of judging as formalistic. I believe Roberts also misconstrued the nature of umpiring as formalistic. Umpires, like judges, are legal realists. Umpires must rely on their experience, rather than logic, because the rules of baseball are incomplete, indeterminate, and contradictory. On occasion, umpires even ignore the rulebook (justifiably). The judges-as-umpires analogy thus illustrates the differences between legal formalism and legal realism in a way that students can more easily understand.

Keywords: judge, umpire, analogy, baseball, Roberts

Suggested Citation

Blake, William, Umpires as Legal Realists (July 23, 2010). U of Texas Law, Public Law Research Paper No. 178, Available at SSRN:

William Blake (Contact Author)

University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) - Department of Political Science ( email )

1000 Hilltop Circle
Baltimore, MD 21250
United States

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