Thomas J. Moyer


We approach the centennial of one of the most famous critiques of the legal profession with a new set of challenges facing the judiciary. When Roscoe Pound delineated “The Causes of Popular Dissatisfaction with the Administration of Justice” in a 1906 speech to the American Bar Association, he attributed the dissatisfaction to what citizens decried as “the necessarily mechanical operation of legal rules.”

The “arbitrary technicalities,” as Pound described them, are still a frustration for those who represent themselves in legal disputes or those untrained in the liberties protected by those technicalities. Pound also noted that the public is frustrated by the slow pace of change in the law and by the “restraint and regulation” embodied in the law.

Pound’s observations are still valid, but modern circumstances have resulted in a broader dissatisfaction with the judiciary brought about by an increasingly partisan judicial selection process and a growing misperception that the judicial system is biased in favor of the wealthy and well-connected. Public opinion polls have also found widespread public concern with the treatment of racial and ethnic minorities.