Fordham Law


New 2nd Circuit Chief Judge Presents Annual Sonnett Lecture

November 27, 2006

by Victor Inzunza
Fordham University
News & Media Relations Bureau

The judiciary has an inherent and insidious bias in favor of legal procedures and solutions that has led to an expansion of judicial influence over nearly every sector of society from schools and prisons to religion and medicine, said Chief Judge Dennis G. Jacobs of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Court at a lecture at Fordham Law School on Nov. 20.

Jacobs, delivering his first speech since becoming chief judge as part of the Law School John F. Sonnett Memorial Lecture, said that the bias displayed by judges is not a political one, but one that places legal thought and solutions above all else in society.

The "inbred" preference by judges to find solutions to public policy and other issues through the legal process is infused with a kind of smugness that such procedures "produce the best results," he said, and called on judges to exercise self-restraint and discipline in order to ward off a bias that often goes overlooked in the legal profession.

"The country could do worse than suffer rule by lawyers," he said. "I would prefer a tyranny of law to life under a military regime. But outside our professional sphere, the dominance of law, the legal profession and the judiciary is resented more than we appreciate. As a matter of self-awareness and conscience, judges should accept that the legal mind is not the best policy instrument and that lawyer-driven processes and lawyer-centered solutions can be unwise, insufficient and unjust. ... For the judiciary this would mean a reduced role but not a diminished one.