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Copyright (c) 1986 Georgia Law Review Association
Georgia Law Review

ARTICLE: Judicial Criticism

Summer 1986

20 Ga. L. Rev. 835


James Boyd White *


0000*835 Today I shall talk about the criticism of judicial opinions, especially of constitutional opinions. This may at first seem to have rather little to do with our larger topic, "The Constitution and Human Values," but I hope that by the end I will be seen to be talking about that subject too. In fact I hope to show that in what I call our "criticism" our "values" are defined and made actual in most important ways.

I will begin with a double quotation. I recently heard my friend and colleague Alton Becker, who writes about language and culture, begin a lecture by saying that one universal aspect of cultural life is the keeping alive of old texts, a reiteration of what was said before in a new context where it can have a life that is at once old and new. (The Javanese even have a name for it.) The text that Becker chose to keep alive in his lecture was a remark made by John Dewey when, towards the end of his long life, he was asked what he had learned from it all. He said, "I have learned that democracy begins in conversation." In this lecture I will try, by locating it in a new context, to give that same sentence a continued life.

The process of giving life to old texts by placing them in new ways and in new relations is of course familiar to us as lawyers. It is how the law ...
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