Cover image for Stewards of democracy : law as a public profession
Stewards of democracy : law as a public profession
Carrington, Paul D., 1931-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Boulder, Colo. : Westview Press, 1999.
Physical Description:
xi, 306 pages : portraits ; 24 cm.
Reading Level:
1730 Lexile.
Format :


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KF352 .C33 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Stewards of Democracy is a celebration of a moral tradition famously observed by Alexis de Tocqueville through the eyes of Francis Lieber, a Prussian emigré who in antebellum times wrote of political ethics, hermeneutics, and comparative constitutional law as aspects of the moral duties of American lawyers and judges. The duty of the profession unifying this tradition has been to nurture and protect the institutions of self-government on which depend the stability of our complex social order and the protection of all our legal rights. Thomas Cooley, perhaps the lawyer most respected by nineteenth century Americans, is presented as a primary exemplar of the dutiful tradition. Much of the book is an account of his career as judge, scholar, teacher, and founding chair of the Interstate Commerce Commission. Cooley's career was succeeded in the tradition by a trio of Progressives: Louis Brandeis, Ernst Freund, and Learned Hand, whose careers area also examined. Finally noted is the more recent career of Byron White.Carrington contends that the dutiful tradition marked by the careers of the five exemplars is threatened by the mutually reinforcing tendencies of the Supreme Court and other high courts, of highly respected legal scholars, of the most honored of our law schools, and of noted legal journalists, all of whom tend to work from the premise that political and moral judgments can best be made by an elite and imposed on a passive citizenry, a belief tending to fulfill itself. The result is a threatened suffocation of the political institutions commanding the loyalty and enduring support of citizens. The book concludes by suggesting possible causes for a future reversal of this long-term trend and the steps such a reversal might entail.

Author Notes

Paul D. Carrington teaches civil procedure at Duke University Law School

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Carrington, who teaches at Duke University Law School and has served as a legal advisor to the federal government, is attuned to the continuity between education, philosophy, and the legal profession. He's also attuned to the impact of that continuity on the larger social and political order and focuses his book on the role of lawyers in U.S. political history. Despite popular dislike of lawyers, Carrington's own faith in the profession is "redeemed when lawyers and judges subordinate their own political preferences to those expressed by the institutions of representative self-government." In this regard, he focuses on some of the giants of the profession: Thomas M. Cooley, Louis D. Brandeis, Ernst Freund, Learned Hand, and Byron White. These were men who were aware of their public responsibilities and could mediate the interests of the democratic majority and the monied class, and/or other minorities, with a non-self-interested bias toward the public good. This book is a worthy read for those interested in the intersection of legal personalities and U.S. history. --Vernon Ford

Choice Review

The legal profession and the practice of law have changed dramatically in the last 100 years. According to Carrington, the rise of the academic law school has transformed the study of law from a tool to support democracy and citizenship to a practice that has grown disdainful of, and separate from the wishes of, the general public. To substantiate this, Carrington contrasts the careers of Thomas Cooley of the University of Michigan Law School with that of Christopher Langdell, dean of Harvard Law School and originator of the case law teaching method. The two offer contrasting views on the democratic versus the scientific nature of law as well as contrasts in the career of lawyers as democratic or disdainful of democratic institutions. Additional chapters on Brandeis, Freund, Learned Hand, and Byron White document examples of lawyers seeking to fulfill their public duties. The book concludes with criticisms of the maladies of law school education. While at times interesting, the book is often incoherent and many of the claims, although perhaps valid, are not well substantiated or explored. Suitable for undergraduate collections on the history of the legal profession. D. Schultz; Hamline University

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Illustrationsp. xi
1 An Embattled Faithp. 1
2 A Celebrationp. 7
3 The Brahmin Hostsp. 11
4 The Barnburner Persuasionp. 15
5 Legal Education for the Peoplep. 25
6 Law and the Lightning of Geniusp. 35
7 The Supreme Court in Jacksonian Perspectivep. 47
8 Deference to Democracy: A Barnburning Courtp. 55
9 A Nineteenth-Century Classicp. 69
10 The Civil War Amendmentsp. 83
11 Industrializationp. 95
12 Railsp. 101
13 The Advent of Federal Administrative Lawp. 107
14 Three Progressivesp. 117
15 Louis Brandeisp. 121
16 Ernst Freundp. 131
17 Learned Handp. 137
18 A New Age of Judicial Heroismp. 145
19 Ineffective Judicial Heroicsp. 153
20 First Amendment Heroicsp. 163
21 The Contagion of Judicial Heroismp. 173
22 Academic Law and Judicial Heroicsp. 181
23 Byron White, Outcast Justicep. 193
24 The Political Economy of Legal Educationp. 205
25 Prospectp. 219
Notesp. 225
Referencesp. 265
Indexp. 299