Remarkably little is known to the general public, or even to the practicing legal profession, about judges—how they decide cases, how they allocate work between staff and themselves, their work ethic, their psychology, the extralegal influences that play on them.
This important new book penetrates that veil of secrecy with thirteen interviews tape recorded in the chambers of the respective judges. The author, Mr. Joel Cohen, who practices at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, LLP in New York, is a skillful and tenacious, though invariably courteous, interviewer. He has picked as the interviewees federal district judges who have presided in famous, publicity-attracting cases, cases most likely to challenge a judge’s fidelity to a passive, formalistic—which is to say traditional—mode of judicial decision making, and he has focused the interviews on those cases.
We learn a good deal about these judges. And one thing we learn is that judges, even when in the hands as it were of a skillful and persistent and unawed interviewer, are very reluctant to acknowledge a personal element in judging even in the most atypical and challenging case.
The book features selected specific, well known cases for the free-flowing dialogues which follow, from the thousands of cases to which these thirteen judges have been assigned. These are cases which have raised critical questions about justice, policy, precedent and the law and the way in which the currents and tides of their lives and of our ever-changing society have influenced those rulings.
You'll discover if the judges have been open, even aware, of what experiences have influenced their rulings, and where judges acknowledge awareness of these potential influences—of their “priors,” as Judge Posner would articulate it—are they fully candid, to themselves and others, about whether, and to what degree, it has informed their rulings? Or have they contrarily decided, after inwardly acknowledging the “awareness,” that they can or did fairly decide the case, so that they needn’t publicly reveal themselves?
If you are even remotely curious about how judges make decisions, this book provides some eye-opening interviews that will shed light on their decision-making process.
What Others Are Saying....
"In Blindfolds Off: Judges on How They Decide (American Bar Association), Joel Cohen doggedly strips the veil from the bloodless effigy of justice in 13 remarkably revealing interviews with federal jurists from New York and elsewhere. Mr. Cohen tactfully but tenaciously demonstrates his skills as a white-collar criminal defense lawyer with Stroock & Stroock & Lavan in a Q.-and-A. format punctuated by rare insight into the brainstorming process behind the proverbial blindfold."
-Sam Roberts, The New York Times
(Read the entire review!)
"Blindfolds Off is a surprising, fascinating and unusually candid examination of what judges think—told in their own words."
--Jeffrey Toobin, The New Yorker
"Joel Cohen’s brilliant book Blindfolds Off is an essential guide to one of the best kept secrets of our legal system: namely that it is we the public, rather than the judges, who are wearing the blindfolds. Judges make their decisions in secret, and the processes they use to decide are also secret. This book, which exposes these secrets, is an essential tool of democracy, visibility and accountability."
--Alan Dershowitz, Author of Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law
"Blindfolds Off takes a revealing and fascinating look at what judges bring to their cases and how they decide them. In no-holds-barred interviews—cross-examinations might be a better term—of federal judges about significant and highly controversial cases that came before them, the role of the judiciary is explored in an engaging and arresting manner."
--Floyd Abrams, Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP
"Joel Cohen’s in-depth conversations with 13 federal judges who sat in leading, often headline, cases illuminates for readers, and perhaps even for the judges themselves, the logical and intuitive paths that judges take in reaching their decisions. In its methodology and lessons, the book is unique."
--Stephen Gillers, Elihu Root Professor of Law, New York University School of Law
"As a former District Judge, reading Joel Cohen’s insightful Blindfolds Off was eye opening. Cohen interviewed 13 of my former colleagues, each of whom spoke with unanticipated candor in the face of sometimes forceful questioning. Their responses led to considerable introspection about the subtle, and not-so-subtle, influences on how I, myself, decided cases."
--Judge Richard J. Holwell (Ret., S.D.N.Y.), Holwell, Shuster & Goldberg LLP
"For every lawyer, law student and even judge who wonders what judges really think when deciding a case, this book will be a revelation. Cohen is a skillful and dogged interlocutor and his judges are surprisingly candid and realistic. Blindfolds Off gives you the opportunity to listen in on judicial thinking in one high profile case after another."
--Dahlia Lithwick, Slate.com