Judge Richard Posner has written a genial book about one of our greatest judicial icons, Benjamin N. Cardozo.1 He seeks not only to assess the merits of Cardozo's writings, both on and off the bench, but also to measure, and determine the causes of, Cardozo's reputation. The book is an outgrowth of a lecture series,2 and it reveals its origins in at least two ways. First, the book attempts to reach a mixed audience, composed of both lawyers and laypeople, and in this aspect it is very successful. Nonlawyers, I believe, will have little difficulty following Judge Posner's essential arguments, but there is also plenty here to challenge and intrigue readers knowledgeable in the law. Second, the book is written in a loose-limbed, almost conversational way. Often, Judge Posner strays from his main themes to make side points. In a larger work, this style might be a significant defect. In a book of this size, it adds to the fun-in large part because so many of Judge Posner's points are insightful and provocative.' Indeed, because he does not offer any stunning surprises, with respect to either Cardozo or the nature of reputation, in this case I believe that getting there is almost all of the fun. So far as he has "aspire[d] to create" a genre-"[t]he full-length critical (not biographical) judicial study, employing tools of social science as well of legal doctrine" (p.viii)-I believe Judge Posner has fallen short; his attempts at social science are not persuasive, and I suspect this book will have few imitators. But there does not need to be a pot of gold at the end; the rainbow can be its own reward. A book that has as many facets as this short one does invite comment on a wide variety of subjects. In Part I of this review, I will address in rather general terms Judge Posner's discussion of Cardozo and of reputation. In Part II, I will address a subject that is of relatively more interest to me than to Judge Posner, Cardozo as Supreme Court Justice.
Friedman, Richard D. Review of Cardozo: A Study in Reputation, by R. Posner. Cardozo L. Rev. 12 (1991): 1923-39.