Judges of Character

  • Suzanna Sherry


For forty years, legal academics have been lost in a wilderness born of the counter-majoritarian difficulty. Despite a two-century pedigree, we are still arguing about the legitimacy of judicial review and asking whether it is a curse or a blessing. Many of our most prominent constitutional scholars are mired in attempts to constrain judicial review so as to reconcile it with their idealized vision of a constitutional regime grounded in pure majoritarianism. None has succeeded.


Character Trait Supra Note Affirmative Action Practical Wisdom Judicial Review 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Randy E. Barnett, An Originalism for Nonoriginalists, 45 Loy. L. Rev. 611, 617 (1999).Google Scholar
  2. 4.
    Anthony T. Kronman, Alexander Bickel’s Philosophy of Prudence, 94 Yale L. J. 1567, 1569 (1985).Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Anthony Kronman, Practical Wisdom and Professional Character in Philosophy and Law, 203, 208 (Jules Coleman and Ellen Frankel Paul eds, 1987) (“Practical Wisdom”); see also Anthony T. Kronman, The Lost Lawyer: Failing Ideals of the Legal Profession (1993) (“Lost Lawyer”). Another nice description of character—and why it is important for judges—may be found in Mark Tushnet, Constitutional Interpretation, Character, and Experience, 72 B.U. L. Rev. 747, 762–763 (1993).Google Scholar
  4. 21.
    See, e.g. Daniel A. Farber, Reinventing Brandeis: Legal Pragmatism for the Twenty-First Century, U. Ill. L. Rev. 163 (1995).Google Scholar
  5. 24.
    I mean to distinguish this fear of error from a different type of fear that some have recently attributed to federal judges, especially Supreme Court Justices: fear of public opinion. Lawrence Solum calls this “civic cowardice.” See Lawrence B. Solum, Virtue Jurisprudence: A Virtue-Centred Theory of Judging, 34 Metaphilosophy 178, 183 (2003).Google Scholar
  6. 27.
    Stephen Breyer, Our Democratic Constitution, 77 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 245, 250 (2002).Google Scholar
  7. 29.
    Brett Scharffs, The Role of Humility in Exercising Practical Wisdom, 32 U.C. Davis L. Rev. 127, 157 (1998).Google Scholar
  8. 34.
    Malcolm M. Feeley and Samuel Krislov, Constitutional Law 34 (2nd edn. 1990); see also Alexander M. Bickel, The Supreme Court and the Idea of Progress 41 (1970) (a “ghastly error”);Google Scholar
  9. Robert H. Bork, The Tempting of America: The Political Seduction of the Law 28 (1990) (“the worst constitutional decision of the nineteenth century”);Google Scholar
  10. David P. Currie, The Constitution in the Supreme Court: The First Hundred Years 1789–1888, at 264 (1985) (“bad policy,” “bad judicial politics,” and “bad law”);Google Scholar
  11. Gary J. Jacob-sohn, The Supreme Court and the Decline of Constitutional Aspiration 44 (1986) (“the most odious action ever taken by a branch of the federal government”);Google Scholar
  12. Robert G. McCloskey, The American Supreme Court 94 (1960) (“the most disastrous opinion the Supreme Court has ever issued”); Christopher L. Eisgruber, Dred Again: Originalism’s Forgotten Past, 10 Const. Comment. 37, 41 (1993) (“the worst atrocity in the Supreme Court’s history”).Google Scholar
  13. 35.
    Michael W. McConnell, Two-and-a-Half Cheers for Bush v. Gore, 68 U. Chi. L. Rev. 657 (2001).Google Scholar
  14. 36.
    Richard A. Epstein, “In such Manner as the Legislature Thereof May Direct”: The Outcome in Bush v. Gore Defended, 68 U. Chi. L. Rev. 613 (2001).Google Scholar
  15. 37.
    Richard A. Posner, Florida 2000: A Legal and Statistical Analysis of the Election Deadlock and Ensuing Litigation, Sup. Ct. Rev. 1, 60 (2000) (emphasis added).Google Scholar
  16. 38.
    Richard A. Posner, Breaking the Deadlock: The 2000 Election, the Constitution, and the Courts (2001); John C. Yoo, In Defense of the Court’s Legitimacy, 68 U. Chi. L. Rev. 775 (2001).Google Scholar
  17. 39.
    For a sampling of the voluminous criticism, see, e.g. Alan M. Dershowitz, Supreme Injustice: How the High Court Hijacked Election 2000 (2001);Google Scholar
  18. Howard Gillman, The Votes That Counted: How the Court Decided the 2000 Presidential Election (2001);Google Scholar
  19. Erwin Chemerinsky, Bush v. Gore Was not Justiciable, 76 Notre Dame L. Rev. 1093 (2001);Google Scholar
  20. Elizabeth Garrett, Institutional Lessons from the 2000 Presidential Election, 29 Fla. St. U. L. Rev. 975 (2001);Google Scholar
  21. Stephen Holmes, Afterword: Can A Coin-Toss Election Trigger a Constitutional Earthquake? in The Unfinished Election of 2000, pp. 235–250 (Jack N. Rakove ed., 2001);Google Scholar
  22. Samuel Issacharoff, Political Judgments, 68 U. Chi. L. Rev. 637 (2001);Google Scholar
  23. Pamela S. Karlan, Equal Protection: Bush v. Gore and the Making of a Precedent in The Unfinished Election of 2000, supra, at 159;Google Scholar
  24. Larry D. Kramer, The Supreme Court in Politics in The Unfinished Election of 2000, supra, at 105;Google Scholar
  25. Frank I. Michelman, Suspicion, or the New Prince, 68 U. Chi. L. Rev. 679 (2001);Google Scholar
  26. Peter M. Shane, Disappearing Democracy: How Bush v. Gore Undermined the Federal Right to Vote for Presidential Electors, 29 Fla. St. U. L. Rev. 535 (2001);Google Scholar
  27. David A. Strauss, Bush v. Gore: What Were They Thinking?, 68 U. Chi. L. Rev. 737 (2001); Sunstein, supra note 18;Google Scholar
  28. Vikram Amar and Alan Brownstein, Bush v. Gore and Article II: Pressured Judgment Makes Dubious Law, 48 Fed. Law. 27 (March/April 2001).Google Scholar
  29. 50.
    Gerald Gunther was the first scholar—and perhaps the most sophisticated-but not the last, to criticize Bickel on these grounds. See Gerald Gunther, The Subtle Vices of the “Passive Virtues”—A Comment on Principle and Expediency in Judicial Review, 64 Colum. L. Rev. 1 (1964). For a more elaborate argument about Bickel’s lack of followers, see Kronman, supra note 4, at 1571–1573.Google Scholar
  30. 52.
    Richard A. Posner, The Jurisprudence of Skepticism, 86 Mich. L. Rev. 827, 854 (1988).Google Scholar
  31. 55.
    John T. Noonan, Jr., Education, Intelligence, and Character in Judges, 71 Minn. L. Rev. 1119, 1130–1321 (1987) (quoting Alpheus Thomas Mason, Brandeis: A Free Man’s Life 281 (1956)).Google Scholar
  32. 62.
    David Cole and William N. Eskridge, Jr., From Hand-Holding to Sodomy: First Amendment Protections of Homosexual (Expressive) Conduct, 29 Harv. C.R.-C.L. L.R. 319, 343 (1994).Google Scholar
  33. 75.
    Michael Klarman includes Griswold in his list of cases in which the Supreme Court’s decision reflected national majority views and suppressed “outlier state practices.” Michael J. Klarman, Rethinking the History of American Freedom, 42 Wm. Mary L. Rev. 265, 279 (2000).Google Scholar
  34. 88.
    Anthony Lewis, Abroad at Home; Question of Judgment, N.Y. Times, September 27, 1987, at D23.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Suzanna Sherry 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Suzanna Sherry

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations