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Max Boot
Max Boot
Out of Order: Arrogance, Corruption, and Incompetence on the Bench
ISBN: 0465054323
Out of Order: Arrogance, Corruption, and Incompetence on the Bench
Hear about the judge who got busted for selling crack? What about the judge who released from jail a felon who then promptly killed a rookie cop? Or the one who ordered a prison to supply its inmates with hot pots?

In Out of Order: Arrogance, Corruption, and Incompetence on the Bench, investigative reporter Max Boot documents dozens of stories like these as he blows the whistle on the least publicized, the most destructive, branch of the government, the judiciary. He combines shocking anecdotes with compelling statistics to support his belief that judges have greatly damaged both the criminal and civil justice system.

Boot criticized well-known judges like Lance Ito, who presided over the O.J. Simpson follies, and Harold Baer, the New York judge who initially decided to execute from evidence eighty pounds of drugs because he found nothing "unusual" about a courier fleeing from the cops. He reveals judges who have taken advantages of their office not only for personal gain, but also to gain greater political power.

The "juristocracy," as Boot calls it, has taken over the running of schools, prisons, and other institutions, with disastrous results: forced busing, which has led to white flight from inner-city schools; higher taxes, as judges have ordered more government spending, regardless of results; and greater social divisions, because judges have taken controversial issues like abortion out of the political arena. Rundowns of case after case reveal judges who have routinely overturned popular initiatives without the legal right to do so, implemented controversial policies with no basis in law, and has put millions of dollars into the pockets of undeserving plaintiffs.

Following in the footsteps of the bestselling Death of Common Sense and Slouching Towards Gomorrah, Out of Order is a tightly reported highly opinionated expose that should set off a national debate about the woeful state of our legal system. It also offers you hope, by provoking ways to improve the performance of the judiciary and reclaim the original role as servant of the people.
—from the publisher's website

Out of Order: Arrogance, Corruption, and Incompetence on the Bench
Program Air Date: May 31, 1998

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Max Boot, author of "Out of Order," what is your book about?
MR. MAX BOOT, AUTHOR, "OUT OF ORDER" It's about power and the abuse of power, Brian. It's about one of the most-powerful branches of the American government, the judiciary, and about how they wield all this influence, all this power, all this authority and have very little accountability to go with it. And what I write about is how this has resulted in a real disaster, I think, for America and for the legal system, in particular. It's led to what I call a revolving door in the criminal justice system. It's led to what people call a lawsuit lottery in the civil justice system. And it's also led to a loss of democracy in constitutional law. And I--I think that judges have a lot of responsibility for all these problems that we face today.
LAMB: You name a lot of judges, and you talk about them in the book.
MR. BOOT: Right.
LAMB: I'm just gonna pull one out here from Chapter 5...
MR. BOOT: Sure.
LAMB: ...Judge Norma Shapiro.
MR. BOOT: Well, Judge Shapiro is--is a federal judge in Philadelphia, and she has been basically presiding over the Philadelphia prisons ever since a consent decree was signed some decades ago over allegedly unconstitutional conditions in the prisons. And what she did, as a result of this consent decree, was to institute a cap on prison population. And what this means is that when prison population hits an X figure, inmates automatically start getting released.

And what this also means is that she's basically forced the local judges to release a lot of--a lot of defendants in pretrial proceedings, not give jail time to a lot of people who really ought to be in jail. And this has had disastrous consequences. It's basically decriminalized a lot of crimes in the City of Brotherly Love, including drug offenses. And a lot of these people who are released, who are allegedly non-dangerous, actually go on to commit very dangerous acts.

In fact, a rookie cop in Philadelphia was killed by somebody who did not receive jail time as a result of Judge Shapiro's consent decree. And this was pointed out by another judge, who presided over the trial of the murder of this guy who killed a rookie cop. This is just a disgrace. And there is absolutely no accountability for Judge Shapiro because she is a lifetime tenured, federal judge.
LAMB: How can she put a cap on the number of prisoners there are in prison?
MR. BOOT: Well, technically, she didn't do it. What happened is a public interest organization--I believe it was the ACLU--filed suit against the city of Philadelphia. And the city of Philadelphia entered into what's known as a consent decree, whereby they agreed to settle the suit and do these various things. But basically this was done several administrations ago in Philadelphia; it was a previous mayor years ago who did this. And as a result of this consent decree, Judge Shapiro supervises it. And that, in effect, makes her the chief prison warden of Philadelphia.

And now the current mayor of Philadelphia and the current district attorney, who are both Democrats, have tried to get out of this consent decree. A--but it's very difficult to do because judges continue presiding over these things for years, even after the alleged harms that the consent decree was trying to correct have long since gone away.
LAMB: Another judge that you talk about is a district judge, Thelton Henderson.
MR. BOOT: Right. In...
LAMB: What is his story?
MR. BOOT: In San Francisco--this was a true outrage. The voters of California passed Proposition 209, the civil rights initiative, which basically said that California will be color-blind in its state practices, in university admissions, hiring, contracts and so forth. And Judge Thelton Henderson, this unelected federal judge in San Francisco who has a very liberal reputation, said, `No, this is possibly unconstitutional, and I'm going to stop the implementation of this--of this initiative,' which was voted on by the people of California.

Now, ultimately, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals overrode Judge Henderson and said that his ruling was basically ridiculous. `How can you claim that it's unconstitutional to treat everybody equally regardless of race? That's just absurd.' But that was, nevertheless, Judge Hilton--Judge Thelton Henderson's position.
LAMB: You don't save your criticism just for judges. You take on Tom DeLay. And the first thing I thought about is that y--your politics on this would come down, I would guess, more conservative than liberal.
MR. BOOT: I think that's fair to say, yeah.
LAMB: I mean, you are the op-ed features editor of The Wall Street Journal. Is that the correct title?
MR. BOOT: Yes, it is.
LAMB: Why--yo--you say that Tom DeLay was involved in partisan grandstanding.
MR. BOOT: Well, what Tom DeLay did, the congressman from Texas, was he actually proposed impeaching activist judges. And I think it's a good idea to do something to curb activist judges, but impeaching them, I think, is a terrible idea because that has--that has not been our history, that has not been our tradition.

There have been very few impeachment proceedings, and they've traditionally been against judges who have corrupted the office. And there is no history in our country of impeaching judges because you disagree with their rulings. There are other things that you can do about it. And I think part of DeLay's ire was generated by a judge in Texas who had momentarily held up the election of some Republicans down there over a question of voter fraud. And I don't think that's a g--that's a horrible instance of activism. I don't think that's the kind of thing that we should be really worried about with the judiciary. And I think it was more motivated by partisan motives than by any high-minded ideals.
LAMB: Have you studied the law?
MR. BOOT: Well, I've studied it i--in--in the--in the way that reporters study matters, the way that foreign correspondents study foreign capitals or financial correspondents study financial markets.
LAMB: When did you start it--study?
MR. BOOT: Well, it really started when I went to work for The Christian Science Monitor in 1992, and I wrote some stories there about the civil justice system, about the Supreme Court, about various other legal issues. And I've continued writing a lot about those kinds of issues since coming to The Wall Street Journal in 1994.
LAMB: Why did you get into journalism in the first place?
MR. BOOT: Well, I guess it beat working. It's--it's a--you--it's a--it's a job where you basically get paid to do and think interesting things. And I have--like a lot of journalists, I'm cursed with a short attention span, and--and I don't want to do something which is just pure drudgery. And I think that in journalism, you're constantly learning something new. You're constantly talking to interesting people. And that's--that's how I enjoy spending my days.
LAMB: How much time have you actually spent in a courtroom?
MR. BOOT: Oh, some time. I--I mean, I can't pretend that I--I go to work every morning and head straight to a courtroom and s--and sit there all day. I spend some time. But I spend more time talking to lawyers, reading law review articles, talking to law professors, thinking about some of the bigger issues involved, although whenever I can I also like to visit courtrooms.
LAMB: But I did notice in your book that you more often than not pick up the phone and call, I would assume, mostly state judges.
MR. BOOT: Right.
LAMB: Give us an example of a state judge you called. And why did they take your call?
MR. BOOT: Well, they take my call because I think they want to set the record straight to the best of their ability, and--and that's why I call them up--is to get the full story because I read things about them, but then I want to find out what their response is to--to charges that they make--tha--that are made about them. And I--I--I called a number of them.
LAMB: I've got one I wrote down.
MR. BOOT: Yeah.
LAMB: Paula Laposa.
MR. BOOT: Right. She's a judge in Indianapolis--or a former judge who had a couple of very odd cases that came before her. She had a 70-something man who was charged with--this was a really ghastly crime--charged with ripping a woman's eye out with a claw hammer--just horrific crime. And yet she did not assign any jail time for this person. And another case she had, also, a geriatric thug before her who had been charged with raping a 19-year-old woman. And in both cases they basically got a little home detention, no real jail time. And this to me seemed like an outrage. And I--I had no idea how she could justify this. And so I called her up and asked her, `Well, how do you justify it?' And--and she gave me some explanations which, as--if you read the book--you'll see I don't find entirely convincing, but nevertheless I give her side of the story as well.
LAMB: Like what?
MR. BOOT: Well, she talked about how, in the case of the guy who ripped out a woman's eyes with a claw hammer, he'd led a blameless life, he'd raised 12--12 children, he didn't have a prior record and--and so forth. But my response to that is, `Well, yes, those are all mitigating circumstances, but think of the crime. This is--this is not justice. This is a travesty to let somebody like this be on the streets loose, no matter what they've done the rest of their life.'
LAMB: What about David Ramirez?
MR. BOOT: Well, he's a--he's a juvenile court judge in Denver who has a shocking record of releasing youthful miscreants who then go on sometimes to commit crimes. But, basically, he's--he has a reputation--he's known as Uncle Dave among some of the youthful offenders in Denver. And he's got this reputation for being very easy on these young thugs, who'll go out and shoot people, and then Uncle Dave, as he's known, will not send them to prison. He'll send them to a juvenile facility or release them altogether.

And this seems to me a shocking breach of what judges are supposed to do. So I called him up and I talked to him and asked him to explain these things. And in a lot of situations he didn't have a very good explanation. He just said, `I don't remember this particular case. It may have happened this way,' but he didn't have a lot of specifics to offer. But where he did, I certainly took that into account and incorporated that into what I wrote.
LAMB: Have you ever tried to call a federal judge?
MR. BOOT: Oh, sure. I've--I talk to federal judges.
LAMB: They--they return your call?
MR. BOOT: Sometimes. Often, they don't want to comment or they don't want to comment on the record. But there's no law against judges talking to reporters, and more than a few of them have been known to.
LAMB: What was the full scope of what this book was supposed to cover? Give us kind of a synopsis of what's in it.
MR. BOOT: Well, it's very broad. It really covers the damage that judges have done to the country in a lot of areas. I talk about judges who are corrupt, judges who are arrogant, judges who are ethically challenged. And I also talk about specific areas of the law--three major ones. One is criminal law about how judges have released a lot of offenders, including violent offenders, onto the streets by not sentencing them harshly enough, by invoking various procedural rules that wind up freeing violent defendants.

I also talk about the civil justice system and how judges have basically acqui--have basically issued decisions that have increased the tort tax on every American, the amount of money we have to spend as a result of very costly civil verdicts.

And, finally, I also talk about what's grandly referred to as constitutional law, but is really the way that judges--they bridge our democracy, the way judges regulate issues like prayer in school, abortion, the running of prisons, the running of schools, all these things which they allege to be constitutional violations and which they basically use as an excuse to grab authority for themselves.
LAMB: Define a tort.
MR. BOOT: It's a civil wrong, basically. It's a--it's a very common type of--of legal case brought in the--in the civil system, the most common--there are a number of varieties, but the--it's basically personal injury, when you allege a personal injury and sue for damages.
LAMB: And when we talk--we keep hearing a discussion in this town about tort reform. What are people trying to reform?
MR. BOOT: Well, it's actually not quite as broad as tort reform because libel laws are a form of tort, and people aren't talking too much about reforming libel law. It's--usually it's talk--what they're talking about is product liability law, which is where somebody sues a company and says, `Your product is dangerous, and I'd like $50 million because of that,' or whatever the amount is. That's what they're usually talking about reforming.
LAMB: What's the difference between criminal and civil law?
MR. BOOT: Well, the basic difference is that in criminal law--I mean, a shorthand way of putting it is in criminal law, the punishment is to go to jail, whereas in civil law you can only be fined money. You cannot be imprisoned.
LAMB: Why is there a difference?
MR. BOOT: Well, there's a lot of historical reasons. I mean, this--this is the way that--I mean, there--there--there've been other categories of law, but this is the way the law has--has been shaped in--in the--over the last several hundred years. I--I mean, I'm not a legal historian. I'm not very good on the medieval origins of--of the common law, but this is--this i--these have been the two branches of law as they've evolved.
LAMB: Where do you go for your--or maybe a better way to ask it: What do you consider to be authoritative when you're looking for information on the legal system and then judges?
MR. BOOT: Well, I don't know that any one source is authoritative. I--there are certainly very knowledgeable lawyers and law professors that I talk to. There are law review articles that I read, newspaper accounts which I read, magazine articles which I read. And with all those, what I do is, of course, I check it out before ma--going with it. It--it--it provides me information, but I have to confirm that it's accurate before I can use it.
LAMB: What is your job? Ho--I mean, give us the scope of your job at The Wall Street Journal.
MR. BOOT: Well, my official job title is, as you mentioned--is editorial features editor. And I'm responsible for basically what other newspapers call the op-eds, which are the signed articles that appear next to the editorials on The Journal's editorial page. And my job is to pick out the articles that we run every day and--and supervise editors who edit those stories.
LAMB: Where is your home originally?
MR. BOOT: Well, I was--it's a little complicated. I was born in--in Moscow, in--in the former Soviet Union, a country that no longer exists, I'm happy to report. I grew up in California in a little town called Riverside and in the suburbs of LA. And from there, I've had a number of homes over the last 10 years or so.
LAMB: What were your parents doing in Moscow?
MR. BOOT: Living, working. They were...
LAMB: Doing what?
MR. BOOT: Well, they were Russians. They were--actually taught English at the University of Moscow--state university. They were English teachers there.
LAMB: So they were Russian by birth.
MR. BOOT: Yes. Uh-huh.
LAMB: Both of them?
MR. BOOT: Yeah. Both of them. And, indeed, so am I.
LAMB: And wh--when did you come to the United States?
MR. BOOT: 1976.
LAMB: How old were you then?
MR. BOOT: I was seven.
LAMB: And why did they come?
MR. BOOT: Basically, seeking opportunity because--seeking freedom, trying to escape from persecution.
LAMB: Where are they now?
MR. BOOT: My mother and stepfather live in LA. My father and stepmother live in London.
LAMB: Did you grow up speaking Russian?
MR. BOOT: Not really. I grew up understanding it, but I--but I really grew up speaking English, and part of that is this anomaly that although my mother, with whom I grew up, is Russian, she, in fact, taught English in Russia. So, therefore, there was no learning curve for her with--with the English language. So she was speaking it from day one, and so was I pretty much.
LAMB: What kind of schools did you go to in Los Angeles?
MR. BOOT: Public schools. I went to LA County public schools.
LAMB: And then what?
MR. BOOT: Then I went to Berkeley, where I was a student for four years and had great fun writing for the student newspaper and writing all sorts of incendiary things. I got people in Berkeley all stirred up. And then I went off to Yale and did a year in graduate school before deciding this was not what I wanted to spend the rest of my life doing. And then I went and got a job with The Christian Science Monitor and wound up at The Wall Street Journal eventually.
LAMB: Go back to UC-Berkeley. What is something that you wrote back there for the newspaper that got people stirred up? And why--why did they get stirred up?
MR. BOOT: Well, there was--there was actually just about everything I wrote stirred people up. I--I wrote about how Berkeley--a lot of people in Berkeley were really relics from the '60s living on old ideals which had been discredited in the years since. I was there at the time of the Gulf War, and I wrote columns supporting the Gulf War at the same time that people in Berkeley were marching around screaming, `No blood for oil. No blood for oil.' So, as you can see, I was--I was running counter to the main currents of Berkeley political thought, and that was what stirred people up.
LAMB: What was the reaction to this and to you personally?
MR. BOOT: Well, people were--they were not exactly admiring, I guess is the way to put it. I once got a bullet that quite literally had my name on it, said `Max Boot' on it. I--The Daily Californian, which ran my column, once got a brick through their front window from another fan of mine. But a lot of people told me that they really enjoyed reading it. There's a embattled minority at Berkeley that has dif--a different outlook on things, and they enjoyed my columns.
LAMB: Why did you go to work first at The Christian Science Monitor? What was the--what was the draw for you there?
MR. BOOT: Well, part of it was--was happenstance because my wife was--was admitted to Harvard Law School, and she was gonna be living up in the Boston area. And, therefore, I needed a job in the Boston area. And the Boston Globe would not give me the time of day, and The Christian Science Monitor saw something there and they took a chance on me and hired me. And it was a--it was actually a great opportunity because they're--they're not as well read as they used to be, but they're a very good newspaper and they really cover the world. And they gave me a lot of experience reporting and writing and editing national news.
LAMB: What would you describe as your political philosophy?
MR. BOOT: I would say it's fairly conservative.
LAMB: Where'd you get that?
MR. BOOT: I guess part of it is from my parents because, having grown up under a Communist regime, they naturally saw the horrors of that and recoiled from it and, as a result, became what in the American lexicon would be known as conservatives. So I think that had a lot to do with it. Being at Berkeley strengthened that outlook because that was not the main current of Berkeley thought, and I'm--I'm sort of an iconoclast by nature or try to be. And I rebelled against Berkeley, and--and the way I rebelled was--was by being more conservative than--than the main currents there.
LAMB: You said that the Boston Globe wouldn't give you the time of day. It--that sounds strong. Was it that they weren't interested in your conservatism or you?
MR. BOOT: Oh, they just weren't--it had nothing to do with political philosophy. They just didn't feel--I applied to a whole bunch of newspapers, not only the Boston Globe, but lots of others, including the New Haven Register and various others, and none of them would even give me an interview because I didn't have five years of daily newspaper experience, which is what they said they required.
LAMB: The year you got out of Berkeley?
MR. BOOT: 1991.
LAMB: And you went to Yale. What'd you study at Berkeley?
MR. BOOT: History.
LAMB: Any certain kind of history?
MR. BOOT: Well, it was fairly broad, but basically European and British history of the last 200 years.
LAMB: Had you gotten interested then at all in the court system?
MR. BOOT: No, I wasn't really that interested at that point.
LAMB: Then what did you go to Yale for?
MR. BOOT: Study history again. And again it was basically European and American history of the last 200 years.
LAMB: So that makes you how old right today?
MR. BOOT: It makes me 28.
LAMB: How can somebody 28 years old become the op-ed features editor of The Wall Street Journal? How'd that happen?
MR. BOOT: Just luck, I guess. My predecessor left, and they--I was the deputy features editor and so I--I moved into the job.
LAMB: But how did they hire you in the first place?
MR. BOOT: Well, you'd probably have to get Bob Bartley out here and ask him that. I applied. I wrote them letters. I asked to be hired. And I didn't hear back for a very long time, but eventually they called me up and said, `We have a job opening. Are you interested in?' I started off as an assistant features editor, as an assistant working in the department that I now run. And I've been lucky enough to--to be promoted over the last few years.
LAMB: How often do you find yourself putting a feature on the op-ed page that has to do with what you're talking about in your book?
MR. BOOT: Fairly often. I mean, I think we write a fair amount about the legal system, whether I'm running the page or not. I think it's just a topic of some interest because judges and the legal system in general have assumed so much authority in America over the last 20 or 30 years that it's really inescapable, that you have to write about it, because these are the people who are really running America.
LAMB: How did you get Bob Bork to write the introduction for this--actually, not the introduction, but the foreword?
MR. BOOT: I called him up and asked, and he was very generous, very kind. He received no payment whatsoever, but he just feels passionately enough about the subject that he wanted to do it.
LAMB: One of the things he brings up is a Judge Martin Manton. Do you remember that story?
LAMB: He said there is a legendary case of Judge Martin Manton who sat on the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and who came very close to being nominated for the Supreme Court of the United States. When it become known that Manton took bribes from parties appearing before him, he claimed innocence on the interesting ground that he took bribes from both sides, decided the case on the merits and then returned the money to the losing party. The defense caused Judge Leonard Hand--that--that defense caused Judge Leonard Hand, perhaps the most distinguished Court of Appeals judge in our history, to call Manton, `a moral moron.' Have--did you find that kind of--of bribery anywhere in the court system when you did your own research?
MR. BOOT: Oh, absolutely. I found a lot of it and not just historic examples like that, but going on right now. In fact, in San Diego a couple of years ago, the FBI ran this operation which wound up resulting in the conviction of three judges on charges of bribery. And they were getting all sorts of goodies from a local trial lawyer, everything from free car repairs to, in one bizarre case, a ju--this lawyer hired a ghostwriter to write a novel for this judge.
LAMB: And--and how is corruption dealt with in the system?
MR. BOOT: Well, that's the problem. It's not dealt with very well. That's why there's so much of it. Basically, the only way it's dealt with is when prosecutors come forward and investigate judges. But prosecutors are people who have to appear before judges every day, so they're going to be pretty reluctant to take on those judges. And judges basically do not do a very good job of policing themselves. So some of the particularly egregious cases, I guess, ultimately wind up being prosecuted. But a lot of small stuff--smaller stuff, which is not outright bribery, but sort of in this gray area, where it's--where it's ethically troubling, but you can't--it's hard to prove outright illegality--a lot of those cases just slide by.
LAMB: In your foreword with--with Judge Bork, he talks about the court having a--basically a constitutional impact. And he brings up several different areas: homosexuals, pornography and Roe vs. Wade.
MR. BOOT: Mm-hmm.
LAMB: What's your take on all that and--and the Supreme Court's--what--what is its responsibility when it comes to the Constitution?
MR. BOOT: Well, obviously, the Supreme Court has a job to overturn statutes which are clearly unconstitutional. I think the problem and what's happened in the last 40 years, as we've had this so-called rights revolution, is that the Supreme Court has overturned a lot of laws which it personally disagrees with and which are not clearly unconstitutional.

And you have this very bizarre situation where the Supreme Court is micromanaging the state regulation of abortion, a job that really ought to be left to the states. And in all these instances, I don't think it really matters what your view is on the merits, whether you're pro-life or pro-choice; what your view is on gay rights or those other issues. I'm not a huge social conservative on some of those issues, but my point is that these decisions ought to be left up to the voters and to the state legislatures. They should not be decided by unelected judges in Washington.
LAMB: Who's your favorite Supreme Court justice?
MR. BOOT: Well, of the current ones, I would say it's Scalia.
LAMB: Why?
MR. BOOT: Well, because I think that he has a very restrained view of the power of judges. He doesn't--although he's known as being a conservative, I don't think he tries to impose his conservative political beliefs on the law. He advocates a philosophy known as judicial restraint, which is that judges should only--should basically act along the lines envisioned by laws' drafters, not along their personal beliefs. And I think he acts on that and is a model of how restrained judges ought to be, but aren't.
LAMB: Who's your model for the way Supreme Court justices shouldn't be?
MR. BOOT: Well, I think the--there are many models, unfortunately. I think that the historic example would probably be Brennan or--or Warren--Chief Justice Warren or--or Associate Justice William Brennan Jr., who basically wrought this revolution in the law over the last 40, 50 years and whose legacy is still with us today. And what they did was they imposed the Supreme Court into many areas that had previously been left up to politics, and they created rigid rules and enforced them from the court.
LAMB: Judge Bork says in his foreword that `the public is massively uninformed about both law and judges.' Do you agree?
MR. BOOT: Absolutely. I think that's true. And I think what happens as a result is that people are fed up with the legal system. They get upset when they read about headlines on a grandmother winning millions of dollars over a coffee spill or hardened criminals getting out of jail. They get very upset about these things, but they don't understand how it happens. They don't link those decisions with the way judges are selected. And what I try and do in this book is to draw that link and to show how judges are responsible for these things that people are upset about.
LAMB: Judge Bork also talks about term limits. And he says for federal judges would similarly require a constitutional amendment. What do you think of the idea of term limits on judges?
MR. BOOT: I'm not a fan of the idea. I have some serious misgivings about it, in part because so many of the great judges in American history have served for a really long time, including Justice Scalia today and, historically, Holmes and Story and Cardozo and all these great judges. I think it takes a while to develop the expertise necessary to be a great judge, so I would not be in favor of term limits. I disagree with Judge Bork on that one.
LAMB: Who is Judge Terry McDonald of the 186th District Court in San Antonio, Texas?
MR. BOOT: Judge McDonald is a judge in San Antonio, Texas, who has acquired a reputation for being pretty soft on crime. In one case, which was just shocking, he actually released a man who had had something like 23 convictions over the course of a very short life. And Judge McDonald released him, let him out of jail, and then a month later this guy showed up at his girlfriend's apartment and killed her. And if he had not been released by Judge McDonald, he would--that woman would probably still be alive today.
LAMB: There's a quote in here from Judge McDonald, and it--you say he explained to you...
MR. BOOT: Yes.
LAMB: He said, `I look for the good in people. The easy thing for a judge to do is to send everyone to prison and to disregard the fact that some crimes are committed by basically good people who deserve a second chance.'
MR. BOOT: Well, I don't think that's a very good excuse for freeing somebody who winds up killing his girlfriend. I think that judges--their duty is to be tough on crime. I--I had this conversation with a prosecutor during the course of writing this book, and I said to him, `Well, what about these judges who say, "I want to take a chance on somebody. I--you know, I--I see some good in him. I--I--I don't want to send him away. I want to take a chance on him"?' And this prosecutor was just livid. He said, `It's not the judge who's taking a chance. It's the community that's taking a chance. This judge is sentencing some innocent person in the community to death or maiming or something terrible. It's the community that's taking a chance, and the judge has no right to take a chance with innocent people's lives.'
LAMB: Judge Bork says the legal system is in shambles.
MR. BOOT: I agree with that.
LAMB: What does that mean?
MR. BOOT: Well, I think it means that it's basically not doing its job. We expect judges to send the guilty to prison. We expect judges to throw frivolous cases out of court. I think we expect a basic level of competence in a lot of judges, and I think we're being disappointed on all those counts. I think that's what--at least that's what I mean by the system being in disarray, and I imagine that's what Judge Bork means as well.
LAMB: What do you want this book to do?
MR. BOOT: Well, I want this book to alert people about what's going on in the legal system. I hope that this will spark some interest in judges and will cause people to closely examine the qualifications of judges that they vote for every election, as well as those who are nominated to the federal courts and have to be confirmed by the Senate.
LAMB: You say here in a chapter called Perverse Failures, `The notorious case of Robert Alton Harris illustrates how far some judges are willing to go to throw a gavel into the gears of what Justice Harry Blackmun described as the "machinery of death." In 1978 Harris killed two teen-agers because he wanted to steal their car. Then he finished off the hamburgers they were eating.' What--what else is there to that story about Robert Alton Harris?
MR. BOOT: Well, th--he committed this heinous crime in 1978, and there was absolutely no doubt of his guilt. But it wasn't until the 1990s that he finally came to be executed. And even when his execution was finally scheduled, it--it just took forever. His execution was finally scheduled, but then these activist judges on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers California which is where this was taking place, they kept issuing stay after stay.

At one point Harris was actually strapped into the chair and going to be executed, and then the judges issued a stay and he was taken back to his cell. And finally the Supreme Court got so fed up with this that they said, `We will not allow any more stays to be issued in the case of Robert Alton Harris,' and finally he was executed.

But all of that le--all those legal battles really denied justice to--to his victims for a number of years, and they also wound up costing the government millions of dollars in legal fees because it's so expensive to fight these endless battles, even though there was no question that he was guilty.
LAMB: How do you stop that?
MR. BOOT: Well, I think you have to pass laws, as Congress is starting to do, limiting the appeals of death-row inmates, limiting the discretion of judges to issue these kinds of stays which prevent the lawful penalty from being carried out.
LAMB: Your chapter Justice For Rent is about what?
MR. BOOT: It's basically about judges who are ethically challenged, situations where conflicts of interest arise or even outright bribery. And I talk about how this seems to be a fairly prevalent condition in some quarters of the--of the legal system, and very little--very little is being done about it.
LAMB: You single out places like Texas and California, in particular.
MR. BOOT: Right.
LAMB: Why?
MR. BOOT: Well, part of it has to do with the fact that those are--I think Texas is, in some ways, a bigger problem than California because, in Texas, judges are elected in partisan elections. And this is true with a number of states. And what happens is that it--judicial races become a political football, and judges need to raise a lot of money in order to win these races. And how do they raise a lot of money? Well, they have to go to the people who have an interest in appearing before them because, you know, just ordinary citizens don't have that much interest in judicial races. So it's pretty much lawyers and people who will be appearing before the judges who contribute to their campaigns. And that's just a recipe for conflicts of interest.
LAMB: You talk about a Judge John Forstel--or Fostel.
MR. BOOT: Fostel.
LAMB: Do you remember him?
MR. BOOT: Yes.
LAMB: Wha--what's the story there?
MR. BOOT: Well, I think this is one of these troubling cases where nothing illegal occurred, but it's, nevertheless, very troubling because Judge Fostel presided over a $200 million verdict in this very small Texas town called Decatur. And this was a verdict against a big out-of-town company. And it later emerged that at the very time that he was presiding over this verdict and ratifying the jury verdict, as all judges must do, he was actually receiving money from the plaintiff's lawyers, who turned out to be his former law partners.

And he--when he had left their law firm, he had signed an agreement that allowed him to continue receiving contingency fees that these lawyers were getting. So at the very time that he was judging their claims, he seemed to have links to one side. And I think this is at--at the--at the least, this creates a--an appearance of impropriety.
LAMB: How much of that goes on around the country?
MR. BOOT: An awful lot. And I think it goes on especially in small jurisdictions where everybody's cozy with one another, where there's a handful of judges and lawyers, and they're all pals with one another.
LAMB: Do the local newspapers publish these kind of stories?
MR. BOOT: No, because the local newspapers tend to be part of the establishment. They're usually in cahoots with the local bunch.
LAMB: Got here another story you've got of the O'Quinn law firm.
MR. BOOT: Right.
LAMB: What was that about? John O'Quinn.
MR. BOOT: Right. Well, it's about a very troubling case that raises a lot of questions, and John O'Quinn is a very powerful and wealthy plaintiff's lawyer in Houston who's made a lot of money from breast implant claims. And one of the women he represented wound up suing him, oddly enough, claiming that the O'Quinn law firm had misplaced tissue samples that--that she had given them and had erroneously tested tissue samples, which indicated that she had breast cancer. And then she had a mastectomy done, and it later turned out that, apparently, she did not have breast cancer. This, at any rate, is what...
LAMB: Was it a double mastectomy? Is that right?
MR. BOOT: I believe so. I'm--I'm not positive--single or double. But she had...
LAMB: Oh, yeah, it is a d--it was a double.
MR. BOOT: Double mastectomy...
LAMB: Mm-hmm.
MR. BOOT: ...on the bel--in the belief that she had breast cancer, which, apparently, I--I say--I stress apparently--it was not the case. And she wound up suing John O'Quinn. And her case was thrown out on summary judgment by a local judge who had received some campaign contributions in the past from Mr. O'Quinn, and that judge's ruling was eventually overturned by an appeals court. But, nevertheless, this raises some troubling questions about the way justice is being administered in Houston.
LAMB: If you could change something--and something you think could really be changed--about the whole system, what would it be?
MR. BOOT: Well, I think I would--for starters, I would end the partisan election of judges because I think that's just an invitation to disaster. I would also basically reduce the discretion of judges by imposing sentencing guidelines, by passing limits on how much they can allow to be awarded in civil cases. I would decrease judges' discretion and h--and hopefully force them to focus on doing their jobs better instead of ranging off into other areas, like trying to run our social and political life.
LAMB: You--in this Justice For Rent chapter, you have a whole section on federal judges, but you also bring up Operation Graylord in Chicago. What was that?
MR. BOOT: Well, that was a giant operation mounted by the FBI in the 1980s, which was targeted at the Cook County bench and caught dozens of judges taking payoffs in the most flagrant manner. And it also caught lawyers and court officers and various others basically in a very corrupt scheme, including, in one case, a judge who took a payoff in a murder case, which was a--a case that just recently reached the Supreme Court.
LAMB: On the federal bench, you li--you list a bunch. `US District Judge Robert Collins of New Orleans became the first black federal judge in the modern-day Deep South when he was appointed by President Carter. In 1991, he was found guilty of scheming to split a $100,000 bribe from a marijuana smuggler.' What happened to him?
MR. BOOT: Well, he was eventually forced off the bench. He was convicted of the crime and forced off the bench.
LAMB: Why would a judge, who'd been approved by the United States Senate, scheme to split a $100,000 bribe? I mean, did you ever--they ever--they ever talk about why they do that eventually?
MR. BOOT: Well, I suppose they wanted the money in this part--I don't know what their individual motives are, but I think the larger problem that it--it points to is that the Senate doesn't give very careful scrutiny to a lot of people it approves for judgeships and so a lot of bad apples get thrown into the bunch.
LAMB: What's a recent example? I know you--you bring up Pete Wilson in here, and you also bring up George Pataki, the governor of the state of New York, who are both Republicans who you say talk out of both sides of their mouth.
MR. BOOT: Well, exactly. Pete Wilson had often inveighs against judicial activism, and yet who does he appoint as chief justice of the California Supreme Court? A man named Ron George, who has just recently overturned a law in California that required parental consent in order for a minor to get abortion. Now, oddly enough, the most liberal member of the court, Stanley Mosk, who was appointed by Governor Pat Brown back in the '60s, actually voted to uphold the law. So in other words, what you had was the spectacle of this Wilson appointee voting to overturn a law that a Pat Brown appointee was voting to uphold; very odd when it's Pete Wilson who often complains about activist judges.
LAMB: On your list of federal judges, US District Court Judge Robert Aguilar, appointed to a vacancy in San Jose, California, by President Carter, was convicted in 1990 of leaking a wiretap to a mobster and lying to the FBI. What happened to him?
MR. BOOT: Well, I--I think there was--part of his conviction was overturned, and eventually he reached a plea bargain with prosecutors...
LAMB: Resigned his seat?
MR. BOOT: Resigned the s--the seat, and--and they didn't press charges further.
LAMB: Do you think there are many judges on the federal bench that don't get caught doing these kind of things?
MR. BOOT: I suspect there are a number. It's hard to prove, obviously, because by definition if they haven't been caught, how do you know about them? But I suspect there are--there are more of these than--than most people are aware of.
LAMB: In 1980, the Senate voted to impeach US District Judge Alcee Hastings in Miami, another Carter appointee. He's now a United States congressman.
MR. BOOT: Right. Right.
LAMB: How does that work?
MR. BOOT: Well, some people might say that he's better fitted to be in Congress than on the judiciary; he might feel more at home among congressmen than among judges. He was--he claimed that the prose--his prosecution was racially trumped up, and the voters in his district in Florida believed him and voted for him.
LAMB: You go on in that same chapter to talk about judicial--I'm--I'm--I'm looking for the word here. I'm looking at--right--judicial councils...
MR. BOOT: Right.
LAMB: one way of dealing with it. But you say they're relatively toothless. What's a judicial council?
MR. BOOT: Well, it's this institution which exists in every federal appeals circuit, and there are 13 all together. The whole country's divided up into federal appeals circuits. So you have the Ninth Circuit out in California and Nevada; you have the DC circuit here in DC, the Fifth Circuit in Texas and so forth and so on. So there's 13 of them. And a lot of the judges in each circuit sit together in this body called a judicial council, which was created, I believe, in 1980 under a law passed by Congress. And they basically are there to police ethical problems or other problems that arise with the judges in their jurisdiction.

But they really don't have the power to do very much. They can basically give reprimands to judges, but it doesn't have any effect because all these judges have lifetime tenure and they can't be removed by their colleagues. So the--these councils investigate things in secret, but they don't--really don't do very much to police ethical problems on the bench.
LAMB: Is this your first book?
MR. BOOT: It is.
LAMB: What'd you think of the experience?
MR. BOOT: I enjoyed it. I learned a lot. I think that's one of the great things about writing a book, is that you get to learn about something. And--and I think some authors say the only way you can really learn a subject is by--is by studying it intently enough to write about it. And--and that's what happened in this case; I learned a lot.
LAMB: When did you start writing it?
MR. BOOT: Well, in a sense, the preparation for it has been going on for a number of years in the course of my reporting. But as--as the--the book, per se, I--I started writing it last year.
LAMB: And it's done by Basic Books un--under the new ownership.
MR. BOOT: Right.
LAMB: Now was it hard to sell it?
MR. BOOT: No, I didn't find it particularly hard to sell it, but I wasn't really involved with that. My agent handled that.
LAMB: And you say a lot of nice things about your agent, who's the same agent for Tom Wolfe and "Bonfire of the Vanities."
MR. BOOT: Well, I don't think he was Tom Wolfe's agent. He's a friend of Tom Wolfe's, and he's a great and wonderful man named Eddie Hayes, who was actually the model for the defense attorney Tommy Killian in "Bonfire of the Vanities."
LAMB: How did you decide to ask him to be your agent?
MR. BOOT: Well, I didn't ask him; he asked me. He s--he sought me out and--and said, I--you know, `I--I think you're--you're a guy I want to represent. And can we talk?' And I said sure, and we wound up striking a--a very happy deal together.
LAMB: So why--why do you smile when you bring up his name? What's so special about him?
MR. BOOT: Oh, Ed, I think, a--as anybody who knows him, will tell you is a real character. He's--he's a very colorful guy. He's not--he's not one of these staid, button-down lawyers. He's--he's very excitable. And his clients range from people--you know, Mafia figures in prison to authors like me, so he runs the whole gamut. He's not just a literary agent, he's also a practicing lawyer and he's been involved in a lot of high-profile fights over the years.
LAMB: How many copies did they print first run?
MR. BOOT: I don't know.
LAMB: What did they tell you you'd have to do in order to sell a book like this?
MR. BOOT: Well, one of the things they told me was to appear on--on a great show like yours, Brian. But besides that, they s--they're gonna send me on a speaking tour around the country. I'll be appearing in a number of cities from New York, Washington, San Francisco, LA and so forth, and I imagine I'll be doing talk radio and various other things as well.
LAMB: But what about the book itself? I mean, was there any conversation about, `You gotta put this in or it's not gonna sell'?
MR. BOOT: No. No, there was none of that. It was--the editorial content was pretty much based on the merits as--as I saw them.
LAMB: And what did your wife do about her law degree?
MR. BOOT: What did she do about it?
LAMB: Did she get it?
MR. BOOT: Oh, yeah, she's--she's a lawyer.
LAMB: What kind of law does she practice?
MR. BOOT: Corporate law, the--the harmless kind, as I like to call it, the court that--the--the kind that greases the wheels of commerce and makes the country go around.
LAMB: And what role did she play in your whole discussion about how you look at the law?
MR. BOOT: Well, she's been really very valuable. I--I sort of felt like I went to law school by osmosis in a way when she did because I would discuss these issues with her, and--and I think I learned a lot from that. And she was a great help on this book, reading my early drafts and giving me ideas on where to go, things to improve. And she was just extremely valuable.
LAMB: When did you find time to write it?
MR. BOOT: That's a good question. I often ask myself that very--that very question. A lot--I--a lot of it was before and after work. I would sometimes get up at 5:30 AM to write before going to the office.
LAMB: And how long could you write at one time?
MR. BOOT: Oh, a few hours at a time basically.
LAMB: You a fast writer?
MR. BOOT: Yeah. That's--I am a fast writer. That comes from the newspaper background. I can--I can write on deadline pretty well.
LAMB: In the book you say that, `People who are in the judicial profession are not people of towering intellects.'
MR. BOOT: Yeah. And I don't think that's a very controversial judgment. Judges say the same thing.
LAMB: Why?
MR. BOOT: Well, because of the selection process--basically, who gets selected. It's not--people don't get--typically don't become judges based on wonderful legal scholarship or intellect. They get selected--as somebody once said, `A--a--a judge is a lawyer who knows the governor.' That's--they're basically selected for political reasons, for having political connections, for having worked in somebody's campaign. So, therefore, it's a--not a selection system that rewards for high intelligence or scholarship.
LAMB: You--you had this statistic that, from 1960 to 1985, the number of lawyers grew 130 percent in the United States and the population grew 30 percent. Where they all going?
MR. BOOT: Well, they're going to make trouble is the bottom line. As the old story has it, when one lawyer moves into a town and he's by himself, the first lawyer in that town, he starves to death. But as soon as a second lawyer moves into town, now there's two lawyers in town--pretty soon they're both wealthy because they both make work for each other. And that vast increase in lawyers is basically making work for more lawyers. And that's why the number of lawyers keeps increasing.
LAMB: You point out that the recidivism rate is 60 percent. What is recidivism, and what impact does that have on this whole system?
MR. BOOT: Well, recidivism is--is criminals who r--who repeat their of--their offenses, who--who go back to crime. And that's really wh--what the legal system is not doing well. Ideally, what'd you want is to put hardened offenders away the first time so they're not released, then go out and commit other crimes. But, unfortunately, that is not what is happening now. And 2/3rds of those--of--of felons who are arrested have had previous arrest records.

What that indicates is that a lot of people are churning through the system. They spend a little time behind bars, they get out, they commit another offense, a little more time. And often the end result of all that will be some truly atrocious and heinous crime: a murder, a mass murder, something really, really dreadful. And judges are not being vigilant enough. If they had been, they would have caught these people a few offenses ago and put them away and spared somebody's life.
LAMB: Judge Russell Clark, Kansas City.
MR. BOOT: Right. He is really an example of what I call the `jurisdocracy in action,' which is this elite that seems to run the country from the bench. He is a federal judge in Kansas City who, as a result of a consent decree in the 1980s, basically took over the Kansas City school district. And he ordered--he allowed them to spend massive amounts of money in this bid to integrate the schools, to lure more white students into Kansas City.
LAMB: A federal judge.
MR. BOOT: Federal judge. And as a result of his orders, property taxes more than doubled in Kansas City by judicial fiat. And the schools wound up spending $1.8 billion--that's billion with a B--on these various school improvement projects like putting in planetariums and...
LAMB: Let me--let me read this...
MR. BOOT: Yeah.
LAMB: ...'cause it's...
MR. BOOT: Yeah.
LAMB: ...I--it's on page 133.
MR. BOOT: Yeah.
LAMB: It says, `Here's a partial list of what Judge Clark ordered'--and this was in 19--did you say 1980 or in the '80s?
MR. BOOT: It was starting i--the trial happened in 1978. I believe the consent decree was entered in 1984.
LAMB: In Kansas City, Missouri, not Kansas.
MR. BOOT: Right. Right.
LAMB: `High schools in every classroom will have air conditioning, an alarm system and 15 microcomputers.' This is the judge writing.
MR. BOOT: Right.
LAMB: `A 2,000-square foot planetarium, greenhouses and'--is it vivarariums?
MR. BOOT: Yeah.
LAMB: `A 25-acre farm with an air-conditioning meeting room for 104 people, a modeled United Nations wired for language translation, broadcast-capable radio and television studios with an editing and animation lab, a temperature-controlled art gallery, movie editing and screening rooms, a 3,500 square foot, dust-free diesel mechanics room, an 1,875 square foot ele--elementary school animal rooms for use in the zoo project, swimming pools and numerous other facilities.' Where did he get the authority to do this?
MR. BOOT: That's--that's--that's exactly what I think a lot of people in Kansas City wanted to know. And he--he claimed he got the authority out of the Constitution. And to pay for all that, as I mentioned, he got--he also said that he had the authority to more than double property taxes.
LAMB: You say here the property tax went from $2.05 per $100 up to $4 per $100...
MR. BOOT: Right.
LAMB: ...of assessed value.
MR. BOOT: Right. I think it eventually went even higher, yeah.
LAMB: And--and how long did this keep going, and is it still that way?
MR. BOOT: It's just now ending. The Supreme Court, after a number of--of cases involving Judge Clark, finally, in the 1990s, ruled that his cons--that consent decrees like his would have to wind down. So last year Judge Clark finally indicated that he would give up control to Kansas City schools, but only after eliciting a promise that the schools would spend another $320 million on various improvements.

And the amazing thing about this whole experience is that there's absolutely no evidence that all this money has had any--has had any impact on educational quality. Test scores have not gone up. There are fewer, not more, white students in the schools. None of this has worked, and yet there are absolutely no repercussions for Judge Clark personally.
LAMB: Judge A. Ted Bozeman.
MR. BOOT: Right. He is, I think--I believe he just retired, actually, since the--just in the last few months. But he is--he was a--a--for many years, a judge in Hayneville, Alabama, a very tiny town in Alabama. And he presided over the largest verdict ever against General Motors, which was a $150 million judgment against GM on behalf of a local man who had been crippled when his pickup truck flipped over on the highway.

Now the reason why he was crippled was because he was not wearing a seat belt. It's pretty obvious. But Judge Bozeman allowed the local lawyers to inflame this jury and to allege all sorts of defects on GM's part, which led to this staggering verdict against the company.
LAMB: So what happened?
MR. BOOT: Well, eventually, it was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum, but it was a very demoralizing picture because Judge Bozeman made a lot of rulings that were friendly to the plaintiffs. And it also emerged that even as he was hearing some of the pretrial motions in the case, his wife was actually represented in another case by those very same plaintiff's lawyers. And eventually she pulled out and stopped being represented by them, but GM argued that this created an appearance of impropriety on the part of the judge and he denied it and refused to recuse himself.
LAMB: I--is Alabama a place where--I mean, I--I remember you talking about where there are states where--where corporations or people will go to to--not corporations d--but to sue...
MR. BOOT: Yes.
LAMB: ...for--because there's a friendly court there.
MR. BOOT: Yes.
LAMB: And--and where does Alabama fit in, in all this?
MR. BOOT: It's near the top. It was...
LAMB: And why?
MR. BOOT: It w--well, it was dubbed `tort hell' by Time magazine. And, basically, a lot of juries in Alabama are really willing to sock it to out-of-state defendants, huge companies. It's basically the same impulse that led to George Wallace's rise. It's this populist fervor against people from Detroit, as--as people said about GM in this case. It's this antipathy towards big companies. And the way they express that antipathy these days is not by electing George Wallace, but by sitting on juries and voting these outrageous $100 million verdicts against companies, even though they may not have done anything wrong.
LAMB: Judge Michael Gallagher of Cuyahoga County, near Cleveland--or at least it's where Cleveland is.
MR. BOOT: Right.
LAMB: What was th--what's that story?
MR. BOOT: Well, he's one of my favorite judges in the whole book, just an amazing--amazing story. He was a guy who had almost no qualifications to be a judge and had, in fact, had a criminal record involving the beating of his wife. But despite all of this, he was elected to the bench because, a Cleveland paper reported, he had an Irish last name and voters like Irish last names in judicial elections.

So he was elected to the bench, and he made no secret of the fact that he was basically in favor of criminalizing drugs. He allegedly even referred to parties in court as `dude' and `man.' And, eventually, the DA caught him with possessing crack cocaine, and he was convicted and sentenced to jail for possession of--of cocaine with intent to distribute. And this is a guy who was a judge. Just--it--it--it floors you to think that a guy like this could get on the bench.
LAMB: If you found yourself in court for any reason, what would be the first thing you'd do, based on what you know about the system now?
MR. BOOT: Well, I think I'd be in trouble. Based on having written this book, I would--the first thing I would do is I'd ask every judge to recuse himself.
LAMB: But what would you do personally? I mean, what kind of a--a lawyer would you want?
MR. BOOT: Well, you want an aggressive one, obviously. I think all parties want an aggressive lawyer to defend their interests in court.
LAMB: You say that there are three myths common in conservative circles: `First, it is not the case that judicial legislation began with a Warren court. Second, judicial activism is not strictly a liberal phenomenon. And third, myth of the right is that judicial legislation is always wrong.' Cover some of that.
MR. BOOT: Well, I--there--there's always been a tradition of judges being activists to one extent or another, and there have been instances in our history when conservative judges have been the activists. There was a time early in the century during what's known as the Lochner line of cases when judges--conservative judges, who believed in capitalism, overturned state regulations on business, such as minimum hours, setting minimum--maximum wage--maximum hours and minimum wages, that kind of thing. And they did this because they thought this was an infringement upon their view of how the country should be run.

And what happened was that, around 1940, the situation reversed and the judiciary stopped being dominated by conservative activists and eventually went to being dominated by liberal activists. And I think that's basically the situation we find ourselves in today. And I d--I don't think we should have activism of either kind, either conservative or liberal. We should have judges who rule based on the law, not on their political or personal beliefs.
LAMB: Speaking of actimism--activism, how can somebody get a piece on the op-ed page of The Wall Street Journal?
MR. BOOT: Well, send it in. Fax it or mail it, and we'll read it.
LAMB: Do you pay them?
MR. BOOT: We do, a small amount.
LAMB: What's the small amount? What's--what's usually the amount you pay?
MR. BOOT: It ranges from $200 to $350, basically.
LAMB: And how often does something come in over the transom that you put on the page?
MR. BOOT: A fair amount, often especially the--the--the quirky pieces near the bottom of the page, which often recount personal experiences. A--a very large number of those are unsolicited submis--articles.
LAMB: How do you do it yourself? I mean, do you--do you--are you the final word on whether something goes on the page?
MR. BOOT: Well, pretty much. I mean, if there's something controversial, then other people at the page will get involved, but on a day-to-day basis, I'm--I'm usually the final word.
LAMB: What are you surprised about, having a job like this? What--what did you not expect?
MR. BOOT: Well, I guess what surprises me is how everybody wants to be on an op-ed page. We hear all the time from people who are professionals--doctors or lawyers or other people--and you think that they've--probably have pretty busy lives, a lot of clients or patients to see. But, no, they somehow find the time to set down their views on various world matters and--and send them in to us. It's--it's--it's--that's sort of been a revelation to me.
LAMB: How many pieces do you get vs. how many pieces you put on the page?
MR. BOOT: Oh, well, we receive hundreds every week and we on--obviously, only run 15 a week, so--and a lot of those we don't receive just over the transom. A lot of those we solicit. So the number of unsolicited--the--the percentage of unsolicited submissions that we run is--is very low.
LAMB: I know there are all different lengths, but what's the optimum length?
MR. BOOT: It varies. It's from 800 to 1,500 words.
LAMB: And what would you advise someone who wants to get their piece on the op-ed page of The Wall Street Journal?
MR. BOOT: Know what you're talking about. Write about a subject where you have firsthand knowledge, either through reporting or some other way. Don't just set down your views on--on something you read about in the newspaper. Write about what you know.
LAMB: And from your standpoint, what do you like to read? I mean, what--what are the kind of pieces that really get your attention?
MR. BOOT: I like reported pieces. I like pieces where authors really go out and dig up new information and present something which is really newsworthy and--and captures the reader's attention.
LAMB: All right. You're 28 years old. Did--you didn't get that master's degree or you did?
MR. BOOT: I did. I have an MA.
LAMB: From Yale...
MR. BOOT: From Yale.
LAMB: history. Features editor of The Wall Street Journal op-ed page. What's your goal?
MR. BOOT: Other than retiring, you mean?
LAMB: Yes.
MR. BOOT: Well, I think one of my goals is to someday live in Santa Barbara down by the beach. I think that's--that's one of my great goals in life. But I don't know if or when I'm ever going to achieve that.
LAMB: What's your professional goal?
MR. BOOT: I'm pretty happy where I am right now. I'd like to do more writing, and assuming everything works out, I'd like to write more books.
LAMB: Now Bob Bartley became editor of that page in--of the paper in 1972.
MR. BOOT: Right.
LAMB: You remember how old he was at that time?
MR. BOOT: I think he was in his early 30s.
LAMB: Do you have any interest in being the editor of the editorial page or the editor of the paper?
MR. BOOT: Well, that's sort of like asking a congressman, `Do you have any interest in being president of the United States?' And I suppose the answer is, `Well, I sure wouldn't mind if it fell into my lap, but I don't think it's terribly likely.'
LAMB: What was the hardest thing about doing this book?
MR. BOOT: The hardest thing about doing this book. I guess it was covering so many different areas of the law. I really had to become familiar with a lot of things, including th--areas that I had not written about a lot at The Wall Street Journal.
LAMB: Max Boot, author of "Out of Order," thank you very much for joining us.
MR. BOOT: Thank you for having me.
Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 1998. Personal, noncommercial use of this transcript is permitted. No commercial, political or other use may be made of this transcript without the express permission of National Cable Satellite Corporation.