Legal Realism, Common Courtesy, and Hypocrisy

Law, Culture and the Humanities, Vol. 1, pp. 75-102, 2005

28 Pages Posted: 8 Dec 2004

See all articles by Keith J. Bybee

Keith J. Bybee

Syracuse University - College of Law; Syracuse University - Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs

Abstract

In the United States, courts are publicly defined by their distance from politics. Politics is said to be a matter of interest, competition, and compromise. Law, by contrast, is said to be a matter of principle and impartial reason. This distinction between courts and politics, though common, is also commonly doubted - and this raises difficult questions. How can the courts at once be in politics yet not be of politics? If the judiciary is mired in politics, how can one be sure that all the talk of law is not just mummery designed to disguise the pursuit of partisan interests? In one sense, an ambivalent public understanding of the courts and suspicions of judicial hypocrisy pose a threat to judicial and democratic legitimacy. Yet, in another sense, public ambivalence and suspected hypocrisy may actually open up space for the exercise of legal power. I illustrate and critique the enabling capacities of ambivalence and hypocrisy by drawing an analogy to common courtesy.

Keywords: Judicial decisionmaking, politics, culture, courtesy, hypocrisy

Suggested Citation

Bybee, Keith James, Legal Realism, Common Courtesy, and Hypocrisy. Law, Culture and the Humanities, Vol. 1, pp. 75-102, 2005, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=627562

Keith James Bybee (Contact Author)

Syracuse University - College of Law ( email )

321 Eggers Hall
Syracuse University
Syracuse, NY 13244-1030
United States
315-443-9743 (Phone)

Syracuse University - Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs ( email )

400 Eggers Hall
Syracuse, NY 13244
United States

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