Judicial Sincerity

40 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2006 Last revised: 16 Jun 2010

See all articles by Micah Schwartzman

Micah Schwartzman

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: September 1, 2006


The idea that judges have a duty to be sincere or candid in their legal opinions has been subject to systematic criticism in recent years. Critics have argued that a strong presumption in favor of candor threatens judicial legitimacy, deters positive strategic action on multi-member courts, reduces the clarity and coherence of doctrine, erodes collegiality, and promotes the proliferation of fractured opinions. Against these and other objections, I defend the view that judges have a duty to give sincere public justifications for their legal decisions. After distinguishing the concepts of sincerity and candor, I argue that the values of legal justification and publicity support a principle of judicial sincerity. This principle imposes weaker constraints than a general duty of judicial candor. But while candor may be desirable, judges who provide sincere justifications for their decisions satisfy the demands of legitimate adjudication.

Keywords: judicial candor, sincerity, publicity, public justification, legal justification

Suggested Citation

Schwartzman, Micah, Judicial Sincerity (September 1, 2006). Virginia Law Review, Vol. 94, No. 4, 2008, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=931435

Micah Schwartzman (Contact Author)

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

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