Posner v. Posner, Round I on Voter ID

October 27th, 2013

Two weeks ago, Mike Sacks rocked the legal world when he asked Judge Posner if he thought his opinion in the voter ID case was wrong. Tune to 9:04 of the video.

Here is a transcript:

Sacks:  “Did you and the [Supreme] Court get it wrong?”

Posner: “Yes, absolutely.”

Unsurprisingly, this unleashed a firestorm, with both praises and criticisms of the Judge for admitting fault.

Today, Judge Posner published a piece in the New Republic, titled “I Did Not ‘Recant’ on Voter ID Laws,” where he denies ever saying that he was wrong. But he makes absolutely no mention of his interview of Huffington Post Live! He only references the portion of his book which Mike Sacks asked about:

A month or so ago, a new book of mine, called Reflections on Judging, was published by the Harvard University Press. I have been a federal court of appeals judge since 1981, and over this extended period I have become acutely conscious of certain deficiencies of the federal judiciary, and those deficiencies are the principal focus of the book.

To my considerable surprise, one sentence—I should have thought it entirely innocuous—in the book has received unusual attention in the media and blogs, much of it critical. The sentence runs from the bottom of page 84 to the top of page 85, in a chapter entitled “The Challenge of Complexity.” The sentence reads in its entirety: “I plead guilty to having written the majority opinion (affirmed by the Supreme Court) upholding Indiana’s requirement that prospective voters prove their identity with a photo ID—a type of law now widely regarded as a means of voter suppression rather than of fraud prevention.” (The footnote provides the name and citation of the opinion: Crawford v. Marion County Election Board472 F.3d 949 (7th Cir. 2007), affirmed, 553 U.S. 181 (2008).)

The attention was not because of the one sentence in the book. It was about his one sentence in the interview.  “Yes, absolutely.”

Perhaps Posner mispoke in his HuffPo Live interview. Maybe his answer meant to reaffirm only what he wrote in the book. But that isn’t what it sounded like to me (and just about everyone else).

It is striking that he wouldn’t even reference the key interview in the New Republic denial. A return visit to HuffPo Live may clarify this.