U.S. Appeals Court Judge Richard Posner, whose acerbic wit and legal opinions made him a legend in legal circles, announced Friday that he is retiring. Posner, 78, is stepping down after more than three decades on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.
Posner was appointed to the court by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, and said he would leave the bench Saturday. He said in a statement that he has written more than 3,300 opinions during his career and is "proud to have promoted a pragmatic approach to judging." He added that "judicial opinions should be easy to understand and that judges should focus on the right and wrong in every case."
Born in New York, Posner earned a bachelor's degree in English from Yale University in 1959. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1962. Posner clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Jr. and was an assistant to U.S. Solicitor General Thurgood Marshall before Marshall became a Supreme Court justice.
Posner has been an outspoken critic of the current state of the nation's high court, calling it "highly politicized."
"I think it's reached a real nadir," Posner said in a talk at a Chicago book store last year. "Probably only a couple of the justices, (Stephen) Breyer and (Ruth Bader) Ginsburg, are qualified. They're OK, they're not great."
He was equally free with his opinions issued from the bench. In one, annoyed with a lawyer who'd ducked one of his questions, Posner included a picture of a man with his head buried in the ground.
Seventh Circuit Chief Judge Diane Wood said in a statement Friday that Posner is one of the world's leading public intellectuals.
"His opinions have had an impact around the world," Wood said. "He has produced an unparalleled body of scholarship — books, articles and public commentary — covering virtually every legal topic that can be imagined."
Posner is also on the faculty of the University of Chicago Law School. He said he looks forward to continuing to teach and publish.