Wigmore critiques judges for failing to read legal scholarship

Following up on a couple of recent critiques of the legal academy, here's what John Henry Wigmore had to say about legal scholarship in his treatise on evidence, written in 1915, in which he laments the shortcomings of judicial opinions (available via Google Books):

1. A first shortcoming to be noted is the lack of acquaintance with legal science. By “legal science” is meant all that is above, between, and behind the particular rules and precedents,—the system of legal knowledge,— that which distinguishes the architect from the carpenter. In an administrator of the law, one's equipment as a scientist may be in general denoted by one's attainments in (a) legal history, (b) legal philosophy and jurisprudence, (c) sound discrimination of the best sources of knowledge.

(a) Acquaintance with legal history is almost totally lacking. There are now ample modern sources for a knowledge of the history of the great principles of our law. They are unknown to our judges. The citations of Pollock and Maitland’s History since its appearance in 1895 could be numbered on the fingers of both hands. There exist now plenteous other standard authorities. But whenever there is an expounding of history, Blackstone suffices. For the judiciary's purposes, the world stopped still with him.

(b) The philosophy and jurisprudence of the law are unknown. Austin, Salmond, Holland, Amos, Sidgwick, Spencer, Terry, Gray, might as well not have written. To be sure, Anglo-American legal science itself has, until very recently, covered formally but a part of the field, chiefly the so-called analytical jurisprudence; but even this has suffered “the long divorce of steel” from the law, so far as judicial opinions reveal.

(c) There is no discrimination in the use of the expository authorities. Such a discrimination is the mark of a sound legal education and a correct scholarly standard. But, in the judicial opinions, the superficial products of hasty hack-writers, callow compilers, and anonymous editors, are given equal consideration with the weightiest names of true science. Obviously, any printed pages bound in law-buckram and well advertised or gratuitously presented constitute authority fit to guide the Courts.

Note, however, that it must be bound: for if it is in periodical form, it is ignored. For ten and twenty years past there have been at the service of the profession some half a dozen legal periodicals, publishing the weightiest critiques of current legal problems. There is nothing in judicial opinion to show that these articles have ever been read; apparently their great labor and acute skill have been wasted on the judges.[n.1] The article by Louis Brandeis and S. D. Warren on “The Right of Privacy” (published in the Harvard Law Review some twenty-five years ago) is the most notable of the rare exceptions discoverable.

[n.1]: And when occasionally they are read, and used, they are studiously not cited. A notable example of this was recently related to the writer, by one who had it directly from a chief justice.