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Authors: Seidman, Louis Michael
Keywords: J. Skelly Wright
legal liberalism
Issue Date: 2015
Publisher: Loyola University New Orleans College of Law
Citation: 61 Loy. L. Rev. 69
Abstract: J. Skelly Wright was the most courageous and influential lower court judge of his generation. Wright was quiet, modest, even awkward in his personal interactions, but that demeanor masked a fierce determination to use his power to root out injustice. Throughout his career, he fearlessly defended the rights of the poor and dispossessed. He did so in times and places where standing up for these rights was deeply unpopular and, on occasion, placed him in physical danger. Judge Wright put to shame the “scholastic mandarins” who insisted that some sort of immutable principle forced judges to acquiesce in the systematic and persistent denial of basic human rights to millions of ordinary Americans. Of course, he believed in principles, but the principles he believed in were not about “judicial restraint” in the face of injustice. They were not “neutral” as between freedom and oppression. By candidly and self-consciously using the law as a means to achieve social change, he pushed legal liberalism to its limits. This is an essay about how Skelly Wright confronted those limits—limits that bounded his effectiveness and left his professional career on the knife’s edge between triumph and tragedy.
ISSN: 0192-9720
Appears in Collections:Law Review

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