Posner, Richard Allen

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Posner, Richard Allen

Richard Allen Posner (pōz´nər), 1939–, American jurist and author, b. New York City, grad. Yale (A.B., 1959), Harvard Law School (LL.B., 1962). He clerked for Supreme Court Justice William Brennan and was an assistant at the Federal Trade Commission (1963–65) and to the solicitor general (1966–68) before becoming an associate professor (1968) at Stanford Law School and a professor (1969) at the Univ. of Chicago Law School. Remaining at Chicago as a senior lecturer, he was appointed (1981) to the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and served (1993–2000) as its chief judge; he retired from the court in 2017. Unconventional, influential, and pragmatically conservative as a judicial activist and a legal theorist, Posner is especially known for his advocacy of an economic approach to law, which he pioneered in the 1970s.

One of the most important, productive, and controversial figures in American jurisprudence, Posner has written over 500 articles, more than 50 books on a wide range of subjects, and almost 3,000 majority opinions for his court. His books include Economic Analysis of Law (1972; 9th ed. 2014), Antitrust Law (1976), Law and Literature (1988), Problems of Jurisprudence (1990), Sex and Reason (1992), The Federal Courts (1996), Catastrophe: Risk and Response (2004), Preventing Surprise Attacks (2005), Not a Suicide Pact: The Constitution in a Time of National Emergency (2006), and Divergent Paths: The Academy and the Judiciary (2016). In a repudiation of some of his former opinions, A Failure of Capitalism: The Crisis of '08 and the Descent into Depression (2009) proposed that overreliance on deregulation and reckless monetary policies contributed significantly to the crisis, and faulted conservative economists for blindness to the subprime lending problem. The Crisis of Capitalist Democracy (2010) also looks critically at the same crisis, taking a longer view of the system and of issues of economic collapse and gradual recovery. Reflections on Judging (2013) analyzes judicial changes since he became a judge (1981), and calls for a renewed consideration of context and a commitment to legal realism.

See biography by W. Domnarski (2016).

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