Judgeship as a Symbol for Modern American Lawyers
Historians seeking to understand the "professionalization" of American law have tended to minimize the significance of the judiciary. 1 There is an abundance of scholarship concerned with the historical development of courts in the United States, but most has focused on judicial statements of legal doctrine. 2 Compared with law professors, for example, judges do not loom large as participants in the process by which lawyers articulated ideology to establish their professional authority in modern American society.
This is a pattern of inattention that reflects received professional wisdom. As of the middle of the twentieth century, when the American Bar Association sponsored a massive Survey of the Legal Profession, few observers doubted that the professoriate of the modern law school had been at least moderately successful in enhancing opportunities for American lawyers to persuade the general public of their claim to "esoteric knowledge." 3 Numbering approximately one thousand at the time, law teachers were believed to fulfill important responsibilities as custodians of professional culture, whatever its recognizable shortcomings. 4 Judges, of whom there were then more than seven thousand in the country, appeared to have contributed less conspicuously to the agenda of professionalism. Most were selected by localistic popular procedures seemingly at odds with the ABAs' second canon of ethics, which required lawyers to "prevent political considerations from outweighing judicial fitness" in evaluating personnel for the bench. Only the most accomplished members of the profession were supposed to become judges. "The aspiration of lawyers for judicial office," stipulated the second canon, "should be governed by an impartial estimate of their ability to add honor to the office and not by a