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NYU Annual Survey of American Law

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This symposium essay, relying on the work of numerous federal judges who have changed the course of criminal justice and civil rights, argues that judges should aspire to be the “Engaged Judge” — that is, a judge who acts in the best traditions of the role by engaging in creative and often bold solutions in order to advance a “justice mission.” The article discusses the contours of that justice mission, emphasizing that engaged judges should not substitute their own morality for the law or become result-oriented by tailoring legal principle to fit the judge’s prior convictions. It explores the various reasons why so few judges are effectively “engaged” and argues that more judges should aspire to this role in carefully restrained contexts, both in judicial opinions and, in a more limited fashion, in public discourse outside of the courtroom.

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