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Richard Allen Posner

POSNER, RICHARD ALLEN (1939– ), U.S. jurist, law professor, and author. Posner graduated from Yale College summa cum laude in 1959 and Harvard Law School (where he was president of the Harvard Law Review) magna cum laude in 1962. He was a law clerk to Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. (1962–63) and to Federal Trade Commissioner Philip Elman (1963–65), and an assistant to Solicitor General Thurgood Marshall (1965–67). In 1967 he became general counsel to the President's Task Force on Communications Policy. He began teaching law at Stanford Law School in 1968 and moved to the University of Chicago Law School in 1969, where he continued full-time teaching until his appointment by President Reagan to the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in December 1981. He was chief judge of that court from 1993 to 2000, while he continued teaching part-time at the University of Chicago.

Posner is a prolific writer on the law, economics, and social sciences. By 2005, he had written over 2,200 judicial opinions, 38 books, and more than 300 articles and book reviews. His original ideas regarding the interplay of economics and law were presented in volumes titled Antitrust Law: An Economic Perspective (1976), Economic Analysis of Law (1977), and The Economics of Justice (1981). These books, as well as his articles in the Journal of Legal Studies, which he founded, encourage economic analysis of law and had a major influence on American judicial thought in the final decades of the 20th century. Between 1977 and 1981 he was the president of Lexecon, Inc., a firm of lawyers and economists that he created to provide economic and legal litigation research. In 1991, a national legal periodical reviewing potential candidates for the Supreme Court called Posner "the most influential legal scholar and the most brilliant judge in the country."

The most notorious of his unconventional proposals was to eliminate the black market in adoptions by abolishing adoption agencies, buying and selling babies on the open market, and paying pregnant unwed mothers not to have abortions. Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, he turned his attention to national security and intelligence reform, publishing books on those subjects in 2004 and 2005.

A case that demonstrated Posner's innovative approach to Jewish religious rights concerned a public high school basketball association's prohibition against the wearing of headgear by basketball players. An Orthodox Jewish team that wore yarmulkes fastened with bobby pins challenged the rule as a violation of freedom of religion. While upholding the general applicability of the rule when yarmulkes are "insecurely" fastened with bobby pins during a game, Posner directed that the team be permitted alternative means of securing the yarmulkes during play with chin straps or by sewing them onto headbands.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.