Jed S. Rakoff is a United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York. (September 2019)

IN THE REVIEW

The Last of His Kind

The Making of a Justice: Reflections on My First 94 Years

by Justice John Paul Stevens
The inspiring legacy of Justice John Paul Stevens—including both the brilliance of his mind and the humaneness of his character—are well represented in his last book, The Making of a Justice, published just two months before his death this past July at age ninety-nine. But if, as seems likely, the …

Our Lying Eyes

An eyewitness’s identification of an accused defendant often provides some of the most dramatic and powerful evidence in a criminal case. “Do you see in this courtroom the person you saw fire the fatal shot?” asks the prosecutor. “Yes,” says the eyewitness, pointing to the defendant, adding for good measure, “I will never forget his face.” But in fact the eyewitness is frequently wrong: inaccurate eyewitness identifications appear to be the single greatest contributor to wrongful convictions. For example, they were introduced as evidence in over 70 percent of the more than 360 cases that the Innocence Project, using DNA analysis, later proved were wrongful convictions. Nearly a third of these cases, moreover, involved multiple misidentifications of the defendant.

Hail to the Chief

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall; painting by Henry Inman, 1832

Without Precedent: John Marshall and His Times

by Joel Richard Paul
George Washington was an inspiring leader, and Thomas Jefferson could turn a phrase; but to federal judges, the greatest of the Founding Fathers was undoubtedly John Marshall, chief justice of the US Supreme Court from 1801 to 1835, who forged the rule of federal law in American life. In his …

Don’t Count on the Courts

‘Members of the Mochida family awaiting evacuation bus,’ Hayward, California, May 1942; photograph by Dorothea Lange. It is on view in the exhibition ‘Then They Came for Me: Incarceration of Japanese Americans During World War II,’ at the International Center of Photography, New York City, January 26–May 6, 2018.
It is a commonplace of American civics to view each of the three branches of our government as a check on the other two. Many Americans therefore look to the judiciary to rein in executive action when it exceeds lawful bounds. In recent months, a number of lower courts have …

The MVP of the Second Circuit

Judges Jon O. Newman and Denise Cote at the Second Circuit Judicial Conference in 1997, with Judge Newman impersonating Carnac the Magnificent, the character created by Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show

Benched: Abortion, Terrorists, Drones, Crooks, Supreme Court, Kennedy, Nixon, Demi Moore, and Other Tales from the Life of a Federal Judge

by Jon O. Newman
Judges come in many flavors. Thurgood Marshall could be salty, even spicy. In dissent, Antonin Scalia could be sour and occasionally bitter. Almost no judge qualifies as sweet. But in his autobiography, Benched, the distinguished federal appellate judge Jon O. Newman seems to embody what scientists have described as the …

Will the Death Penalty Ever Die?

Courting Death: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment

by Carol S. Steiker and Jordan M. Steiker
When my older brother Jan David Rakoff was murdered in 1985, bolts of anger and outrage not infrequently penetrated the black cloud of my grief. Though I knew almost nothing about Jan’s confessed murderer except his name, I wished him dead. Had the prosecutor recommended the death penalty, I would have applauded. It took many years before I changed my mind.

NYR DAILY

Washington’s Legacy for American Jews: ‘To Bigotry No Sanction’

A daily service at Touro Synagogue, the centuries-old place of worship of the Jewish community of Rhode Island, which welcomed President George Washington as a visitor in 1790 and gave rise to his famous letter about religious freedom, Newport, 2004

Warden Seixas’s letter immediately brought forth from Washington the now-famous response, undated but sent on August 21, 1790. As a number of commentators have remarked, it has sometimes been overlooked how good a politician George Washington could sometimes be. Picking right up on Seixas’s theme, and using some of Seixas’s own language, he noted that in the United States “[a]ll possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship,” and that the government of the United States “gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.” These are the words for which the letter remains famous.