Saturday, May 2, 2015

Opinions not a matter of opinion

Modern courts can be innovative, but judges are reluctant to pick ideas entirely out of thin air. It's always much safer to follow some precedent, preferably an opinion by a prestigious court or at least a well-known judge. But, alas, there is a point in the development of any legal doctrine where there is no judicial precedent; some court has to be the first. That is a very uncomfortable position for a judge to be in: You write an opinion and have nothing to cite. Paradoxically, opinions are not supposed to be a matter of opinion; they are supposed to reflect the law, and this means at least someone out there who does law is supposed to agree with you.
Judge Alex Kozinski, Who Gives a Hoot About Legal Scholarship?, 37 Hous. L. Rev. 295, 307 (2000)

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