Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Stockdale Questions

Being, of course, “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” First one’s easy. Name’s Chad Oldfather, of the Marquette University Law School. Second one’s maybe a little trickier. I’m not a mathematician, and I’m not any sort of hard core empirical scholar. (Though I’m certainly empiricurious.) In fact, I’m something of an improbable entrant in this profession altogether seeing as how, as writer Michael Perry puts it, “As a dyed-in-the-slop farm boy, I have an almost atavistic urge to poor-mouth anything more theoretical than a bag of feed.”

But both Mike Perry and I recognize that urge as one that is generally best suppressed, and so I’ve found myself working with and indeed fascinated by all manner of theory, particularly as it relates to the judicial process. But the underlying farm-boy need for practicality isn’t easily cast aside. And so while I’ve spent the better part of the last couple years developing the contours of a concept I call “judicial inactivism,” I’ve done it with an eye toward reality and without losing sight of how those ideas might be used to improve the process and its implementation. It’s an effort to generate what Lori felicitously calls “reality-based theory,” which I in turn advocate using to make reality a little more theory-informed.

So why am I here? In part because I hope that participating in this conversation will help me to fill in some gaps in my knowledge. But I don’t mind saying that I also hope to have a good idea to contribute here and there. (And, truth be told, the occasional well-turned phrase.) In any case, I’m pleased to be here.


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