Pound, Roscoe

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps

Page 44

Roscoe Pound was one of the leading figures in twentieth-century legal thought. As a scholar, teacher, reformer, and dean of Harvard Law School, Pound strove to link law and society through his "sociological jurisprudence" and to improve the administration of the judicial system. In the early decades of the century, Pound was viewed as a radical thinker for arguing that the law is not static and must adapt to the needs of society. By the 1930s, however, he was seen as a more conservative figure, fighting the growth of federal government.

Pound was born on October 27, 1870, in Lincoln, Nebraska. The son of a judge, Pound attended the University of Nebraska, earning a bachelor of arts degree in botany in 1888. His father convinced him to attend Harvard Law School, but he stayed only one year. The death of his father led Pound to return to Lincoln, where he passed the Nebraska bar examination and was admitted to the bar in 1890.

From 1890 to 1903, Pound practiced law, taught at the University of Nebraska, earned a doctorate in botany from the university, and served as the director of the state botanical survey. In addition, he helped organize the Nebraska Bar Association in 1900.

A gifted scholar, Pound could have had a distinguished career in the sciences, but his appointment in 1901 as a commissioner of appeals for the Nebraska Supreme Court permanently shifted his career to the law. As a commissioner he acted as a temporary appellate judge, helping to reduce a backlog of cases. His opinions emphasized substance over procedure and reflected a concern with the practical effect of the law.

In 1903 he was appointed dean of the Nebraska College of Law. His academic interests merged with his experience as a court commissioner in 1906 when he addressed the annual convention of the AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION in St. Paul. His speech, titled "The Causes of Popular Dissatisfaction with the Administration of Justice," was a call to improve court administration and a preview of his theory of law, called sociological JURISPRUDENCE. The speech, which has remained a classic statement on JUDICIAL ADMINISTRATION, attracted the attention of JOHN HENRY WIGMORE, the dean of Northwestern University School of Law. He asked Pound to join his faculty in 1907. Pound's two-year association with the school was marked by his organization of the First National Conference on Criminal Law and Criminology, which gathered...

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