March 5, 2009
The Myth of the Generalist Judge
Do judges really practice the generalist ideal? According to Edward K. Cheng (Brooklyn Law School), the answer is not really. Cheng's very interesting article, The Myth of the Generalist Judge, 61 Stanford Law Review 519 (Dec. 2008), [SSRN}, empirically tests this question by examining opinion assignments in the federal courts of appeals from 1995-2005. It reveals that opinion specialization is a regular part of circuit court practice, and that a significant number of judges indeed specialize in specific subject areas.
Cheng proceeds by assessing the desirability of opinion specialization. Far from being a mere loophole in court operating procedures, opinion specialization turns out to be an important feature of judicial practice that could increase judicial expertise without incurring many of the costs commonly associated with specialized courts. [JH]
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