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June 27, 2006

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» Posner on Murphy on Douglas from PropertyProf Blog
I just read Judge Posner's review of Bruce Allen Murphy's biography of William O. Douglas. Because legal history is my other area of work, I thought I'd post a link to it. As Eugene Volokh (the person who pointed me [Read More]

» Posner on Murphy on Douglas from PropertyProf Blog
I just read Judge Posner's review of Bruce Allen Murphy's biography of William O. Douglas. Because legal history is my other area of work, I thought I'd post a link to it. As Eugene Volokh (the person who pointed me [Read More]

Comments

Alfred L. Bophy

Ah, very interesting question, isn't it, Bill: what do we make of someone's memoirs. What's Emerson's phrase about biography? Biography's more auto-biographtical than biographical. Or something along those lines.

In this case, perhaps Douglas' narrative of his life at CLS says more about him than CLS. It's hard (for me) to think that reform is blocked because people are too lazy to revise their notes. Maybe faculty at CLS (and other places, too) were hostile to legal realism because it was alien to their ideas--it didn't pay sufficient respect to the elegance of legal reasoning; it reduced law to poltics. Its questions distracted them from training lawyers whose lives would be spent practicing law (rather than working as social scientists). I'm not sure--just sort of cobbling these suggestions from old memories. But Douglas seems too hard on the CLS faculty, IMHO.

Go East Young Man's engaging writing--though it ought to be read in conjunction with White's chapter on him in American Judicial Tradition. Makes for some interesting speculation on the difference between how we remember our lives and what actually happened. And then also what we remember and how we choose to talk about what happened....


William Henderson

Al,

For a variety of reasons, the book is strange (e.g., Douglas deals with his marriages and children in literally a handful of paragraphs--indeed, I think he skips over one wife--yet he waxes on for pages on trivial accomplishments and hardships from his young). But the narrative on sociological jurisprudence seems consistent with other stories. You are the historian: what is the standard for discounting the reminiscences of someone like Douglas, who was--despite his intellect--almost pathological vain?

Al Brophy

Bill,

Great post, as always.

But are we supposed to take William O. Douglas' memoirs seriously? I thought that G. Edward White showed them to be, at best, wishful thinking in _The American Judicial Tradition_.

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