This essay, written for a symposium on the life and work of United States Court of Appeals Judge J. Skelly Wright, makes four points. First, Judge Wright was an important participant in the liberal legal tradition. The tradition sought to liberate law from arid formalism and to use it as a technique for progressive reform. However, legal liberals also believed that there were limits on what judges could do–-limits rooted in both its liberalism and its legalism. Second, Wright occupied a position on the left fringe of the liberal legal tradition, and he therefore devoted much of his career to pushing against those limits. Third, despite this effort, the limits ultimately defeated some of his most important initiatives. Finally, Wright should nonetheless be celebrated for his dogged insistence on accomplishing as much as was possible given the legal, political, and cultural constraints under which he operated.
Scholarly Commons Citation
Seidman, Louis Michael, "J. Skelly Wright and the Limits of Liberalism" (2014). Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works. Paper 1387.