U.S. Seventh Circuit - The FindLaw 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Chief Circuit Judge Responds to Posner's Biting Criticisms

Fresh off the bench, Judge Richard Posner, or Dick, as Chief Judge Diane Wood calls him, has been stirring up some controversy on the court he used to serve. His new books explains his belief that pro se litigants don't get a fair shake in his former circuit, and not surprisingly, the justices still sitting on the bench in the Seventh Circuit disagree.

In a statement provided by Judge Wood to Above the Law, she explains that Dick is alone in his view that the staff attorneys don't do a good a job for pro se litigants, or disfavor pro se litigants. She calls his views "assumptions."

What'd the Pos Say?

In his book, Reforming the Federal Judiciary: My Former Court Needs to Overhaul Its Staff Attorney Program and Begin Televising Its Oral Arguments, (yes, the former sultan of benchslaps certainly isn't trying to win any awards for creativity with his title), he explains his belief that the circuit staff attorneys that handle pro se litigant cases do unsatisfactory work. In the first edition, he included examples of the deficient memos that staff attorneys prepared, and he calls the work "badly written and hard to understand." This created some controversy over judicial ethics, but he doesn't see a problem, particularly as the particular rule in question is merely "advisory."

Judge Posner Retired Over Friction on the Bench

Before he retired, Judge Posner sought to help the staff attorneys by volunteering to review their memorandums for the pro se litigant matters. However, the other justices refused to allow him to do so. Based on Judge Wood's comments above, Judge Posner's concern for pro se litigants is not shared by the other justices.

While his lone wolf status might make some wonder, it is worth noting that over half of the appeals filed in his former circuit were pro se appeals. As the ABA Journal explained, Judge Posner is now considering taking on matters on behalf of pro se litigants, and potentially handling class action matters.

Related Resources: