If you really want to know what Judge ___ is like, read his opinions

Forgive me for a post not particularly law-and-religion related, but certainly law-related.

I’ve been enjoying Professor Ronald Collins’s series on Judge Richard Posner over at the Concurring Opinions blog. The Collins biography is extremely substantive and scholarly; it’s not really the subject of this post at all. I’m more interested here in “Posner on Posner,” which is basically a collection of interviews, reflections, bon mots, aphorisms, scattered wisdom about cats, opinionation about the virtues and vices of spicy food (or was it jurisprudence?), and so on. The latest installment is a smorgasbord of law professor queries about various scraps of miscellany, answered by Judge Posner in his genially efficient fashion. It’s a fun little window on Richard Posner the man. It reminds me of the way that James Fitzjames Stephen used to produce regular victuals for the insatiably voracious Victorian English intelligentsia.

The Posner on Posner format, though, is such that I’m afraid folks might perhaps be misled to believe that when Judge Posner makes statements like, “I think the role of legal doctrine in judicial decisions is considerably overrated,” that means that legal doctrine is likely actually to play very little role in his judicial decision making. Law professors so like to ask questions about things like pragmatism, and the influence of law and economics and sundry other ideological precommitments on judging, how judging will change “in the future,” and whether Posner reads any Lon Fuller (or enjoys the filmography of Lon Chaney). And, of course, Judge Posner is rather able at providing law professors with what they so much want to hear–interesting, provocative, sometimes perhaps a little shocking (not too much!), always eminently Posnerian responses to these sorts of questions. Indeed, he’s made something of an extrajudicial second career in writing great numbers of books whose theme is a tell-it-like-it-is forthrightness that shows the emperor in his resplendent nudity (and the repeated announcement of that theme, just in case you missed the last 19 times it was pressed, as something altogether novel coming from a judge). Professor Collins’s series is certainly of a piece with this spectacularly prodigious extrajudicial output.

Still, if you really want to know what Posner the judge is like–and here one could substitute really anybody when writing as a judge–you might do better simply to read his opinions. Failing that, or for the sake of saving a little time, may I humbly submit that you read my piece with Kevin Walsh about the several ways in which Posner the judge is often altogether different from Posner the public intellectual who explains what it is like to be a judge. It’s only after pursuing this sort of course that the differences between a judge and an explanation (even from the most able of judges) of ‘what-it-is-like-to-be-a judge’ (with apologies to Thomas Nagel) come into view–differences that for various reasons may run deep in Judge Posner’s particular case.

Conference: The Economic & Business Case for Freedom of Religion or Belief (Dec. 10)

On December 10, the United Nations NGO Committee on Freedom of Religion or Belief in New York will explore the connection between religious freedom and economic growth with a panel discussion featuring Dr. Brian Grim, president of the Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, and with responses from Prof. Silvio Ferrari, an expert on freedom of religion and the law, and Jeffrey French, an expert in the peacemaking potential of business.

Get more information here.

Dionigi, “Hezbollah, Islamist Politics, and International Society”

This month, Palgrave Macmillan releases “Hezbollah, Islamist Politics, and International Society,”  by Filippo Dionigi (Middle East Centre of the London School of Economics and Political Science). The publisher’s description follows:

How do the norms of the liberal international order influence the activity of Islamist movements? This book assesses the extent to which Islamist groups, which have traditionally attempted to shield their communities from ‘external’ moral conceptions, have been influenced by the principles that regulate international society. Through an analysis of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, Filippo Dionigi concludes that international norms are significant factors changing Islamist politics. We are still far from an accomplished resolve of the tension between Islamist communitarianism and liberal normative views, but a precarious equilibrium may emerge whereby Islamists are persuaded to rethink the idea of an allegedly ‘authentic’ Islamic morality as opposed to the legitimacy of international norms.

Francavilla, “The Roots of Hindu Jurisprudence: Sources of Dharma and Interpretations of Mimamsa and Dharmashastra”

In January, Oxford University Press will release “The Roots of Hindu Jurisprudence: Sources of Dharma and Interpretations of Mimamsa and Dharmashastra” by Domenico Francavilla (Institute of Canon Law and Comparative Religious Laws, Lugano). The publisher’s description follows:

This book is a detailed, innovative, and comprehensive examination of the sources of dharma, which is among the key concepts in Hindu jurisprudence. The book is also an introduction to the main topics of Hindu legal theory. Underlying the work of authors of various texts of Sanskrit juridical literature, including the dharmashastra, commentaries, andnibandhs, as well as of interpreters of questions concerning dharma, is a theory of the sources of dharma. Understanding the theory requires in-depth examination of the basis of the authority of different sources and of the issues that arise in case of conflict. The book begins with a detailed analysis the concept of dharma itself and the general problems concerning the knowledge of dharma (chapters 1-2). Then it studies the arguments used in the literature to establish the authority of sources (chapters 3-5). It pays special attention to the authority of smrti andsadâcâra, which are the two crucial sources in the practical functioning of the system. It examines the theory of sources of dharma as reconstructed mainly through an analysis of Medhatithi’s commentary on Manu II.6-15 and of thesmrtipada of the Tantravarttika of Kumarila Bhatta, a pivotal text in the Mimamsa philosophical tradition. It concludes with a look at wider issues of legal theory, the acceptance of universal and particular authorities in Hindu jurisprudence, the role of rulers, and the law in practice.