AuthorRoskoski, Matthew K.

JURISMANIA. By Paul F. Campos. New York: Oxford University Press. 1998. Pp. x, 198. Cloth, $123; paper, $13.95.

Lawyer bashing is by no means a remarkable phenomenon. It was not remarkable when Shakespeare wrote, "[t]he first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers,"(1) and it's not remarkable today. Paul Campos,(2) however, has written a particularly readable example, blending venerable Western lawyer-bashing and pop psychology with unsystematic invocations of Eastern religion. Jurismania is named after Campos's theory that the American legal system has a lot in common with a person suffering from an obsessive-compulsive disorder, an addiction to law that does neither the patient nor those around him much good. In Jurismania, Campos criticizes oar insistence on regulating and legalizing every aspect of our lives, and our insistence on exclusive rationality. Campos argues, with regular Taoist allusions, that rationality is not and cannot be the exclusive', solution to the questions law raises, and that irrational methods are and should be employed. Campos's intended audience is "the general reader whose experience of American law has made him or her wonder if there might not be something wrong" with it (pp. vii-viii). Should that audience take Campos's critique seriously, it will strike close to the heart of law and the legal profession. Thus, although they are not the target audience, lawyers ought to think about Jurismania because it reflects and amplifies a perspective that may be common to many nonlawyers who encounter the legal system.

Jurismania should be read not as a didactic composition, a treatise on the flaws of American law and how to fix them, but rather as a literary composition of the type described by J.B. White.(3) As a literary text, Jurismania is not argument-oriented but rather "experiential and performative": it seeks to persuade not by representative data but rather by sharing narrative experiences with the reader.(4) Similarly, as a literary exercise, Jurismania is "not reducible to other terms -- especially not to logical outline or analysis -- but express[es its] meaning[] through [its] form,"(5) thus generally avoiding the type of logical proof Campos seeks to critique. As an invitation to discourse, Jurismania is well taken. It has a broad, sweeping scope that can provide the starting point for a host of valuable inquiries: Are particular laws excessive, in that they attempt to regulate a sphere of life best left to private authority? Do particular cases rationalize excessively, or do they disguise leaps of intuition or preference as rational argument? Do particular lawyers, or does the profession in general, undervalue sincerity and overvalue artifice and feigned emotion?

Even though Jurismania is, fundamentally, a literary text, it still has substantive and legal aspirations. To be fair, Campos nowhere asserts that Jurismania is meant to be a self-sufficient critique of American law. In many places, he expressly disavows any attempt to suggest remedies for the problems he identifies. But these denials and disavowals go hand in hand with a treatment that looks and sounds thorough, such that a reader might be left with a sense that she has heard all she needs to hear. Further, Jurismania often does shade over from the narrative to the prescriptive and overtly directs the conclusions a reader is meant to draw. This Notice aims to preempt the sense of completeness one might get by reading Jurismania alone and to demonstrate that Jurismania is deficient as a free-standing critique of the American legal system.

Part I reviews the central themes of Jurismania. Part II identifies some ways in which Jurismania does not tell the complete story. Campos allows his perspective to color his thinking, distorting his view of the legal system in at least two ways. First, and perhaps most ironically (given his marked aversion to law-obsessions), since Campos is a law professor, he tends naturally to see only the ways in which law pervades any problem, missing nonlegal aspects. Second, as a modern law professor, Campos misses the extent to which the problems he isolates have been with us since antiquity. Part III raises a different kind of question about Jurismania, suggesting that when he complains about "too much law," Campos condemns legal regimes aimed towards the redress of social and economic inequality. Campos's vision of the law as intruding on a presumptively legitimate private sphere fails to take into account the ways in which the private sphere upon which law operates starts off warped by concentrations of wealth and power.


If he has done nothing else, Campos has thoroughly escaped from the normal mode of legal scholarship that White critiques: "voices, audiences, and languages that seem impossibly sterile or empty."(6) Jurismania is an easy and pleasurable read, and it speaks in Campos's voice, revealing the breadth of his reading and the variety of ways in which he thinks about the American legal system. Jurismania develops several theses. In fact, the range of Campos's analysis is so broad that any effort to summarize it in less than book-length form will necessarily fail. What follows is an attempt merely to review some highlights.

Campos's central thesis is "that, in its more extreme manifestations, what Americans call the `rule of law' can come to resemble a form of mental illness" (p. ix), specifically addiction. Further, the illness is self-perpetuating and self-destructive: "[I]t is in the nature of obsessions to cause us to pursue something in such an excessive way that we not only fail in our quest, but end up pursuing the opposite of whatever it was we were pursuing in the first place" (p. vii). In support of this proposition, Campos adduces a broad range of evidence, drawing from strictly legal sources to nonlegal sources emulating legal forms. He cites a variety of regulations and codes of conduct, including those of the NCAA (pp. 6-8) and the Louisville Public Library (pp. 129-30). He points to a battery of cases, some sensationalistic, some absurd. Included in his collection are the familiar staples: O.J. Simpson's trial (pp. 17-18) and Jones v. Clinton.(7) But his collection also includes some cases that are less well-known to the popular media, including Sawada v. Endo,(8) a Hawaiian marital property case, and Quill v. Vacco,(9) a Second Circuit physician-assisted suicide case.

An additional theme in Jurismania is the inauthenticity of lawyers and legal thought. As Campos says, "inauthenticity is essential to authentic legal thought. Practicing lawyers must often maintain a peculiar mental state in which they fail -- authentically -- to recognize the inauthenticity of their claims" (p. 13). In Campos's vision, lawyers displace politicians and used-car salesmen as the paradigm case of false sincerity. One cannot help but wonder how Campos feels about being a professor at a professional school yet having such utter contempt for the professionals he is creating.(10) That qualm aside, however, Campos's criticism certainly resonates with the popular perception of lawyers and legal ethics.

The final core theme running through Campos's work is one he shares with his colleague Pierre Schlag: a critique of the legal system's reliance on exclusive rationality.(11) To illustrate why this claim to perfect rationality is mere pretense, Campos develops a three-part "efficient process" theory. The three parts of his theory are: "1) In a legal system, efficiently processed disputes will be settled to the extent that the available information predicts a likely outcome" (p. 60); "2) The further an efficiently processed dispute travels through a dispute processing system, the more firmly that dispute is lodged in a legal equilibrium zone" (p. 61); and, therefore, "3) In an efficient dispute processing system the terminal decision making structures of the system will resolve disputes arationally" (p. 64). In other words, the really easy cases settle, the relatively easy cases are decided at trial and not appealed, and since the Supreme Court only grants certiorari on the extremely difficult cases, the Supreme Court is almost invariably making it up as it goes along. Supreme Court cases, according to Campos, cannot be resolved by mere rationality; if they could, by definition they would not be Supreme Court cases. At some point, the Court simply has to make a call.

Apart from the substantive arguments, the rhetoric of Jurismania deserves mention. Two rhetorical threads that run through Jurismania are in curious tension. On the one hand, Campos employs a relatively standard rhetorical move: to belittle law and rationality, he employs religious metaphors, deliberately analogizing law and rationality to superstition. For example, he describes lawsuits as "a species of symbolic human sacrifice, performed by our relentlessly bureaucratic priesthood" (p. ix), and describes law school as "a seminary for the production of a mystifying priestcraft, whose obscurantist incantations help legitimate the power of the social and cultural elite" (p. 175). This strategy is certainly not unique to Campos -- other authors have used it to belittle their nemeses of choice.(12) Not only is this strategy offensive -- particularly to genuinely religious people -- but it is also in conspicuous tension with the Eastern religious themes Campos weaves throughout Jurismania.

Campos, in the process of criticizing our society's overemphasis on rationality and science, employs rhetoric strongly suggestive of some diluted variety of Taoism. For example, in Chapter 8 he isolates "two things" that we are all "required" by our rationalist and science-centered culture "to believe" (p. 138). They are:

  1. The universe consists entirely of particles in fields of force. There are no such things as spirit or soul or karma or God, except to the extent those entities are projections of the human mind. The human mind...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT