Biographing Realist Jurisprudence

Roy Kreitner*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


This essay reexamines realist jurisprudence through a review of two biographies of leading realists: Dalia Tsuk Mitchell'sArchitect of Justice: Felix Cohen and the Founding of American Legal Pluralism (2007), and Spencer Waller'sThurman Arnold: A Biography (2005). The essay argues that when biographies of legal realists are considered alongside their academic writing, a more robust jurisprudence emerges. Realist lives crystallize the intuition that the major innovation of legal realism was not, as generally assumed, its attitude toward judges and adjudication. Instead, realist jurisprudence is an institutionalist view of law with a focus on groups rather than individuals. Realist jurisprudence understands courts, legislatures, administrative agencies, and nongovernmental groups as important loci of law, lawmaking, and legal reasoning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)765-791
Number of pages27
JournalLaw and Social Inquiry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2010


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