As late as the early 1960′s, Justice William O. Douglas was widely regarded as a disgrace to the bench even by many lawyers who shared his social and economic views. Douglas’s contempt for legal craftsmanship was seen as sloppiness; his visionary opinions were taken as evidence that he was angling for the presidency; and his solicitude for those he considered underdogs was perceived as favoritism.
By the end of the 1960′s, however, a new and very romantic ideal of judging had begun to take shape. In eulogies, tributes, law-review articles, and legal journalism, judges began to be praised for qualities that would once have been considered problematic: compassion rather than impartiality, boldness rather than restraint, creativity rather than craftsmanship, and specific results regardless of the effect on the legal order as a whole. In the 1990′s, Douglas would surely have basked in the “Greenhouse Effect”—a term (named after the New York Times’s Linda Greenhouse) for the warm reciprocity between activist journalists and judges who meet their approval.
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