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Merida and Fletcher on Clarence Thomas:
In his post below, David mentions Kevin Merida & Michael Fletcher's new biography of Justice Thomas. I recently finished the book, and my take is mixed. The book's first half, which mostly covers Thomas's childhood and family, is pretty interesting. Merida & Fletcher interviewed tons of people, and the book offers lots information on Thomas that is hard to find elsewhere. The book goes downhill in the second half, which is more on Thomas as an adult and as a judge. Merida & Fletcher are not lawyers, and they tend to see conservative legal views as an expression of lack of sympathy for others. As a result, they get wrapped up in questions that will strike sophisticated readers as quite silly (such as, how could Justice Thomas be such a nice guy personally and yet endorse such uncaring views of the law?). Finally, it's worth noting that we'll get Justice Thomas's own take soon: his memoirs will be published in October.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. Merida and Fletcher on Clarence Thomas:
  2. Clarence Thomas and "Affirmative Action":
Henri Le Compte (mail):
Orin:
I had to chuckle when you wrote:

...they get wrapped up in questions that will strike sophisticated readers as quite silly (such as, how could Justice Thomas be such a nice guy personally and yet endorse such uncaring views of the law?).

I'm sorry to say that there are plenty of "sophisticated" readers who take that logic one step further and are convince that Thomas (and Scalia, and Alito, and Roberts, and...) simply cannot be "nice guys" because of their views. In fact, many sophisticates share a loathing of these men based precisely on such reasoning.
6.18.2007 9:52am
Smiley (mail):
OK, I can't help but wonder if going downhill, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. I read the same book over the weekend.

I thought the book WAS sympathetic to CT's judicial views, e.g. in his discussion of the death penalty, when he explains why, whatever he thinks of it, it can't be unconstitutional, because the Founders clearly envisioned it for multiple crimes.

It also seems to posit his judicial philosophy as seen through his own eyes as akin to the dissent in Plessey v. Ferguson - a voice in the wilderness for now, but speaking truths that will become self evident over time.
6.18.2007 10:14am
ejo:
you think a biograpy of Ginsburg by these guys would tag her as a bloodthirsty harpy as the only issue she seems to see in black and white is the right to abortion?
6.18.2007 1:32pm
Rattan (mail):
I, for one, firmly believe that Scalia, Alito, Thomas and Roberts are not only nice guys, but fine people to know- if one is lucky enough to befriend them. This does not require endorsing errors they often make in their legal analysis.

Most people disagreeing with these Supremes are unlikely to demonize them as individuals. Their interpretation of the law, at the very least, clashes with the expansive air of fresh breath in the Constitution. Their reverence for the State/Authority and disregard for the individual from an analytical perspective is striking. Thus, the only rights one can safely get for the individual in their decisions are those that are specifically enumerated and supported by a large political lobby. This is not what the Constitution's literal language says.

Take death penalty as an example. The founders expected death penalty as a punishment to be meted out. But, they also reserved to the individual rights not enumerated in addition to specifically laying out the expectation of no cruel punishment, freedom of speech etc. and due process. This means the BEST due process. In other words, both objective and procedural fairness is needed. If due process is not possible for some reason, there is no divine need to mete out death penalty anyway.

While the respected Justices are focused on repeating as many past errors-originally made due to the lack of knowledge of better alternatives- as possible, the Constitution is not so stingy. The failure to correct errors raises procedure over substance- and this is the problem with their analysis. Procedure is to get to the right substance to do justice rather than avoid it. Mere procedure is not justice.
6.19.2007 6:25am
Rattan (mail):
I, for one, firmly believe that Scalia, Alito, Thomas and Roberts are not only nice guys, but fine people to know- if one is lucky enough to befriend them. This does not require endorsing errors they often make in their legal analysis.

Most people disagreeing with these Supremes are unlikely to demonize them as individuals. Their interpretation of the law, at the very least, clashes with the expansive air of fresh breath in the Constitution. Their reverence for the State/Authority and disregard for the individual from an analytical perspective is striking. Thus, the only rights one can safely get for the individual in their decisions are those that are specifically enumerated and supported by a large political lobby. This is not what the Constitution's literal language says.

Take death penalty as an example. The founders expected death penalty as a punishment to be meted out. But, they also reserved to the individual rights not enumerated in addition to specifically laying out the expectation of no cruel punishment, freedom of speech etc. and due process. This means the BEST due process. In other words, both objective and procedural fairness is needed. If due process is not possible for some reason, there is no divine need to mete out death penalty anyway.

While the respected Justices are focused on repeating as many past errors-originally made due to the lack of knowledge of better alternatives- as possible, the Constitution is not so stingy. The failure to correct errors raises procedure over substance- and this is the problem with their analysis. Procedure is to get to the right substance to do justice rather than avoid it. Mere procedure is not justice.
6.19.2007 6:25am