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Sunday, June 23, 2024

O'Connor and Cromwell

Somewhat apropos of John Roberts's refusal to take any responsibility for lower courts' confusion over Bruen, Mark Tushnet writes at Balkinization:

Reading recently published tributes to the late Justice O'Connor reminded me of the throw pillow she had in her office, with an inscription: "Maybe in error but never in doubt." It's always struck me that without elaboration that's exactly the wrong attitude a judge should have. For me Oliver Cromwell provides better guidance: "I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken."

I am pretty confident, however, that Justice O’Connor would have agreed with Tushnet about the pillow; it is indeed the wrong attitude for a judge. In O'Connor's chambers, the slogan was surely ironic or self-mocking, a reminder about the pitfall of overconfidence. I say this because I heard the same slogan from judge-friends, long before I knew of O’Connor’s pillow, who said it laughingly (or critically of certain of their colleagues).

Cromwell himself, of course, was never known for appreciating irony or exercising self-correction, as his various opponents soon learned.

(When asked if I ever wanted to become a judge, I've always explained that I have the two worst qualities for judging: I am both impatient and indecisive.)


Posted by Steve Lubet on June 23, 2024 at 01:10 PM | Permalink


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