Reversed, With Love and Admiration


judge richard posner

Judge Richard Posner

Friend of, Lihwei Lin, has made several choice contributions to Strange Judicial Opinions, including one posing this question: What would you do if you were a judge and had to reverse a case in which your boss had sat as the presiding judge? And what if your boss was none other than the legendary Richard Posner? Here is Lihwei’s take on the situation:

Imagine yourself in this situation: You are a newly-appointed circuit judge sitting in a circuit with the likes of Frank Easterbrook, “Rick” Posner and other judicial demigods. One day, your Chief Judge, Posner, apparently runs out of things to do in between being a chief judge, mediating the Microsoft case, and writing 5000 books, and decides to make a guest appearance by special designation in a federal trial court. In that role, he makes a few clearly reversible errors in a case, Chicago School-style no less. The case has come up for review and you are the presiding judge. What would you do?

Judge Evans confronted this dilemma of judicial review in Bankcard America, Inc. v. Universal Bancard Systems, Inc., 203 F.3d 477 (7th Cir. 2000). His footnote only three sentences into the opinion leaves you with the feeling than reversing one’s own Chief Judge is a bit more delicate than reversing your typical trial court:

It is a testament to the dedication of Chief Judge Posner that he volunteer to sit in the district court and hear this case which, at the time, needed the guiding hand of a new judge. Judge Posner, of course, carries a full load of cases on this court. He also discharges a multitude of administrative duties as the circuit’s chief judge. But that’s only part of what he does. He has written more books than many people read in a lifetime. On top of all this, in his spare time he is working as a court-appointed special mediator in the government’s blockbuster antitrust suit against Microsoft. Obviously, Judge Posner has more on his plate than a long-haul trucker working an “all you can eat” buffet line. It is a tribute to Judge Posner’s talent that he handles his many roles with such vigor, brilliance, and panache.

The only thing missing is: “I’m sooooo sorry about this, Judge. Please don’t take away my parking space.”

Bankcard America, Inc. v. Universal Bancard Sys., Inc., 203 F.3d 477, 479 n.1 (7th Cir. 2000). Thanks to Lihwei Lin.

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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