Obama’s Legal Pragmatism

Following up on Jesse’s post, below, it’s worth highlighting a few passages from the New York Times article on Obama’s pramgatic legal philosophy.

Former students and colleagues describe Mr. Obama as a minimalist (skeptical of court-led efforts at social change) and a structuralist (interested in how the law metes out power in society). And more than anything else, he is a pragmatist who urged those around him to be more keenly attuned to the real-life impact of decisions. This may be his distinguishing quality as a legal thinker: an unwillingness to deal in abstraction, a constant desire to know how court decisions affect people’s lives.

There’s also a passing reference to Richard Posner:

Mr. Obama often expressed concern that “democracy could be dangerous,” Mr. Stone said, that the majority can be “unempathetic — that’s a word that Barack has used — about the concerns of outsiders and minorities.”

But when a student asked Mr. Obama to name the circuit judge he would most like to argue in front of, he named Richard Posner, a conservative. Judge Posner was smart enough to know when you were right, Mr. Obama told the class.

Despite their differences, Posner and Obama are both pragmatists.

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