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Posner Can't Catch a Break

View of the US Supreme Court Building on a bright Christmas Day
By William Vogeler, Esq. on May 03, 2019

Richard Posner, a former fan favorite at the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, can't get a break.

He retired from the bench in 2017 at the top of his game. He served 35 years and was respected throughout legaldom. By some accounts, Posner was the most entertaining judge in U.S. history. But he abruptly left the appeals court and took up the cause of pro se litigants. Since then, he can't get a judge to buy his arguments in his biggest case.

Wrong Case

Every lawyer knows you have to choose your battles wisely. In Bond v. United States, Posner apparently didn't. The plaintiff alleged three federal judges conspired to throw a case. Posner helped Bond before the U.S. Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals and then the U.S. Supreme Court.

The plaintiff had argued the trial court did not adequately explain its decision to deny him -- a pro se litigant -- leave to amend a complaint. "Absent notice of their pleading deficiencies, very few pro se litigants can parse the record and identify how to successfully amend their complaints," the petition said.

After losses at the trial court and the appeals court, it was strike three. The Supreme Court denied cert. A lesser judge might have taken it personally. Posner, however, must have known he had chosen a hard path to justice. "I have decided to dedicate my post-judicial career to helping pro se litigants," he said in an earlier motion in the case.

Disillusioned Judiciary

Soon after he retired, Posner self-published a book that explained his unexpected retirement. He was disillusioned with the judiciary. In Bond, he found a case to illustrate the problem. The plaintiff said federal officials had spied on him and violated his First Amendment rights. He said it was "provable corruption" in the courthouse.

Of course, it didn't turn out that way. Not at the Supreme Court anyway.

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