So you thought a judge’s job is to be fair and impartial? To renounce personal gain? To have no agenda? According to Ronald K.L. Collins and David M. Skover in their new book, The Judge: 26 Machiavellian Lessons, that’s all malarkey. If you believe it, you’re a chump. And if you’re a judge who believes it, you should quit and make room for someone who will use his power to advantage. “Power,” the authors tell us, is “that ability to make something happen.” Like Niccolo Machiavelli, whose 16th century guide to executive power they channel, the authors explain how the modern judge can exploit the opportunities his position and Fortuna bestow upon him.
So begins Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski’s book review published on Law360. Here is another excerpt:
“The ethics of a great judge are counter-ethics. They do not bow to law’s old pieties, the ones grounded in the myths of justice impartially applied. … Still, the myth of impartiality lives on and, strangely enough, some judges (the weaker ones) actually take their decisional cues from such pious norms.” The ideal judge “appreciate[s] the value of deception.”
Collins and Skover give example after example where U.S. Supreme Court justices have (in the authors’ view) manipulated the law, lied about history, undermined precedent while pretending to follow it, “cram[med] their opinions with half-truths” and generally pulled the wool over the eyes of their colleagues and the public. The authors speak in glowing terms about justices who achieve their ends through skullduggery and disparage justices who are ineffectual because they’re proud, priggish, wedded to precedent or fooled by their own rhetoric. According to Collins and Skover, “a Justice must be hypocritical and strive to appear objective, judicious, and collegial.” John Marshall, William J. Brennan Jr., William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia and (usually) John Roberts make the grade while James Clark McReynolds, Felix Frankfurter, William O. Douglas (except in Griswold), Warren E. Burger, and Roberts in Obergefell don’t. Frankfurter draws particular scorn as “arrogant, combative, spiteful, and manipulative (but not in effective ways).”
→ Of course, there is more, much more. The full text of the review is here: The Judge, 26 Machiavellian Lessons