The Limits of Virtue Jurisprudence

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Abstract

In response to Lawrence Solum's advocacy of a ‘virtue–centred theory of judging’, I argue that there is indeed important work to be done in identifying and characterising those qualities of character that constitute judicial virtues – those qualities that a person needs if she is to judge well (though I criticise Solum's account of one of the five pairs of judicial vices and virtues that he identifies – avarice and temperance). However, Solum's more ambitious claims – that a judge's vice necessarily corrupts her decisions, and that in at least some contexts we must define a legally correct decision as one that would be reached by a virtuous judge – should be rejected: we can undermine the former by attending to the requirements of due process, and the latter by attending to the ways in which a judge would try to justify her decision.

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