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Sentencing the Judges
[FINAL Edition]
The Washington Post - Washington, D.C.
Subjects: Books-titles; Books-authors; Nonfiction; Judiciary
Author: Velvel, Lawrence
Date: May 24, 1998
Start Page: X.11

Max Boot is the op-ed editor of the Wall Street Journal. A talented man, and young, he rose to that position after only four years with the paper. On the Journal, he says, he has "authored numerous editorials, features articles, and Rule of Law columns calling for legal reform."

In his new book he again calls for legal reform, saying that although he previously focused mainly on plaintiffs' tort lawyers as the cause of problems, "I now realize I was overlooking the real problem with the legal system -- judges, not lawyers."

Boot wrote the book, he explains, to focus attention on "a major failing of the justice system that has gotten far too little attention so far." Judges, he recognizes, embody the idealistic hopes of our society for justice and for the fair and impartial resolution of disputes. They are "the priests of our civic religion -- the Law," and wield enormous power over each of us. Yet they too often are minimally competent and sometimes not even that. They are, as a class, arrogant. "After all, when you wear a black robe, everyone -- staff, litigants, even haughty maitre d's -- bows and scrapes and genuflects before you. All your witticisms are suddenly hilarious, all your observations astute." They often have life tenure, as in the federal system, but are subject to little ethical oversight -- hardly any worthy of the name, since oversight panels are generally packed and stacked. They even flout the very principles of law in order to reach a result they desire. And all of this lives and grows in the dark. For as Robert Bork trenchantly says in his foreword to Boot's book, "the public is massively uninformed about both law and judges."

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