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Some Reflections on Judge Learned Hand, 24 University of Chicago Law Review 666 (1957)

Abstract

I was asked, originally, to speak of Great Judges. I objected. What, I queried, does one mean by "great"? I remembered my dispute with Professor Thorne and Justice Frankfurter about Lord Coke, once Chief Justice of England. I said Coke was a nasty, narrow-minded, greedy, cruel, arrogant, insensitive man, a time-serving politician and a liar who, by his adulation of some crabbed medieval legal doctrines, had retarded English and American legal development for centuries. Thorne and Frankfurter replied that I proved their case, that the duration of his influence, no matter whether good or bad, made him a great judge. I think I lost that argument. But if that be the test, then we must put on our list of "greats" such men as Attila, Robespierre, and Hitler, although most of us consider them evil. And so too as to the great among legal thinkers, lawyers, and judges. Consider Tribonian who contributed importantly to the Justinian codification of Roman law which mightily affected the legal systems of the western world. Who was Tribonian? A brilliant scholar but a corrupt judge.

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1957

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