Friday, August 20, 2010

Should federal judges be writing books?

That's the question this Boston Globe article raises in light of Judge Nancy Gertner's new book, In Defense of Women: Memoirs of an Unrepentant Advocate --

The 64-year-old Boston jurist said the book being published by Beacon Press focuses on her two decades as a prominent criminal defense and civil rights lawyer before she joined the bench in 1994. As such, she might not have to worry about the federal Judicial Code of Conduct, which prohibits judges from making public statements about cases that could come before them.
But by devoting a memoir to her years as an “unrepentant advocate’’ for notorious criminal defendants and women who brought sex-discrimination suits, Gertner will almost certainly give ammunition to those who say she tilts toward those litigants instead of prosecutors and corporations.
Gertner, whose sentences of criminal defendants have drawn criticism from federal prosecutors and who was accused of bias by lawyers defending the Boston police in a civil rights suit, said she is not worried.
“The unrepentant advocate stuff ends at my swearing-in,’’ she said, referring to the day in April 1994 when she officially became a judge.
She also emphatically denied that she is biased on the bench in favor of criminal defendants or people fighting corporations or police departments. Just last week, she noted, she dismissed a lawsuit by several customers of Bank of America, N.A., who al leged the bank engaged in deceptive business practices.
“I do believe my record speaks for itself,’’ she said in a telephone interview last week, adding that news outlets tend to cherry-pick rulings that reinforce the stereotype of her as a liberal.


Several lawyers who insisted on anonymity because they might have to appear before Gertner said a judge should not be an “unrepentant advocate.’’
In contrast, Harvey Silverglate, a criminal defense and civil rights lawyer and former law partner of Gertner’s, dismissed the notion that judges should be silent about their personal and professional backgrounds or even their views on jurisprudence. Judges, he said, had lives before they entered what he called the “monastery,’’ and it is foolish to pretend otherwise.
“Judges, like other human beings, have predispositions,’’ said Silverglate. “Some are called liberals. Some are called conservatives. To hide these facts doesn’t make them untrue. And so by encouraging judges to talk more, when you have a case before a judge, you have a better idea of what that judge might be interested in and what you might have to say in order to overcome that judge’s predispositions.’’
Asked whether the book will expose his friend to criticism, he said, “Of course. If your question is, ‘Will it expose her to legitimate criticism?’ the answer is no.’’
To be sure, Gertner is not the first sitting federal judge to write a book or even a memoir.
Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote a critically acclaimed 2002 memoir with her brother called “Lazy B: Growing Up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest,’’ that described her childhood in Arizona and New Mexico.
Richard A. Posner, an influential judge on the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago and appointee of President Reagan, has written about 40 books on jurisprudence and legal philosophy, some of which plumbed current events. He also blogs and writes magazine articles.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Conservatives can write books; liberals cannot.