Patterico's Pontifications

1/28/2007

Jan Crawford Greenburg on the Slandering of Clarence Thomas

Filed under: General,Judiciary — Patterico @ 9:35 am

I am late linking this excellent Wall Street Journal piece by ABC legal correspondent Jan Crawford Greenburg, who has a new book out titled Supreme Conflict: The Inside Story of the Struggle for Control of the United States Supreme Court. The linked WSJ piece explodes the myth of Clarence Thomas as a Scalia lackey, providing proof that Thomas has changed the mind of Scalia and others on many occasions:

Clarence Thomas has borne some of the most vitriolic personal attacks in Supreme Court history. But the persistent stereotypes about his views on the law and subordinate role on the court are equally offensive — and demonstrably false. An extensive documentary record shows that Justice Thomas has been a significant force in shaping the direction and decisions of the court for the past 15 years.

That’s not the standard storyline. Immediately upon his arrival at the court, Justice Thomas was savaged by court-watchers as Antonin Scalia’s dutiful apprentice, blindly following his mentor’s lead. It’s a grossly inaccurate portrayal, imbued with politically incorrect innuendo, as documents and notes from Justice Thomas’s very first days on the court conclusively show. Far from being a Scalia lackey, the rookie jurist made clear to the other justices that he was willing to be the solo dissenter, sending a strong signal that he would not moderate his opinions for the sake of comity. By his second week on the bench, he was staking out bold positions in the private conferences where justices vote on cases. If either justice changed his mind to side with the other that year, it was Justice Scalia joining Justice Thomas, not the other way around.

Greenburg provides some specific examples:

Consider a criminal case argued during Justice Thomas’s first week. It concerned a thief’s effort to get out of a Louisiana mental institution and the state’s desire to keep him there. Eight justices voted to side with the thief. Justice Thomas dissented, arguing that although it “may make eminent sense as a policy matter” to let the criminal out of the mental institution, nothing in the Constitution required “the states to conform to the policy preferences of federal judges.”

After he sent his dissenting opinion to the other justices, as is custom, Justices Rehnquist, Scalia and Kennedy changed their votes. The case ended up 5-4.

Justice Thomas’s dissents persuaded Justice Scalia to change his mind several times that year. Even in Hudson v. McMillan, the case that prompted the New York Times to infamously label Justice Thomas the “youngest, cruelest justice,” he was again, initially, the lone dissenter. Justice Scalia changed his vote after he read Justice Thomas’s dissent, which said a prison inmate beaten by guards had several options for redress — but not under the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Interestingly, his independence was only reinforced by his nasty confirmation hearings, which confirmed for him that his critics have no credibility.

I am looking forward to reading Greenburg’s new book, which I recently ordered. Based on this article, she appears to be willing to tell the truth, even if it benefits conservatives. That’s a refreshing attitude from a Big Media reporter.

UPDATE: One of the contributors to Confirm Them has the book and says that, so far, it is very good. Of course, he got a complimentary copy, whereas yours truly is paying the big bucks for his. I (almost) never seem to get these free advance copies of books that bloggers are always talking about. What am I doing wrong?

One of the problems could be that, for some reason, people don’t seem to see this blog as a “legal blog” — even though, after media criticism, that is probably the primary topic of the blog. I cover confirmation wars and court decisions, and I think I get the legal analysis right most of the time — far more often than, say, the L.A. Times, to take one example. Still, people don’t seem to see me as a legal analyst. I guess you have to be a law professor to be taken seriously on that front.

In any event, I’ll have a review of the book out once I get it and read it. But since I always elect “Super Saver Shipping” from Amazon, that may be a while.

16 Responses to “Jan Crawford Greenburg on the Slandering of Clarence Thomas”

  1. Maybe Linda Greenhouse made her recent politicized comments – comments that even liberals have criticized as inappropriate and biased – because she saw her role as grande dame of the Supreme Court reporters slipping away. It’s time to pass the baton, Ms. Greenhouse. Jan Crawford Greenburg is the new leader in Supreme Court reporting.

    DRJ (e69ca7)

  2. I’ve ordered this as well. I was (happily) amazed to see this info on Clarence Thomas coming from a reporter at one of the “big 3″ networks. Sounds very interesting.

    Laura (ee9fe2)

  3. I cover confirmation wars and court decisions, and I think I get the legal analysis right most of the time — far more often than, say, the L.A. Times, to take one example.

    Aawwww, come on now. That’s like shooting fish in a barrel now isn’t it? 😉

    —–

    Bye the way, I couldn’t see the “live Preview of Comment” on this one. Is it working?

    Bill M (afe2c3)

  4. Patterico:

    UPDATE: One of the contributors to Confirm Them has the book and says that, so far, it is very good. Of course, he got a complimentary copy, whereas yours truly is paying the big bucks for his. I (almost) never seem to get these free advance copies of books that bloggers are always talking about. What am I doing wrong?

    I came here initially because of the legal topics and I view your website as primarily a legal blog, like Volokh except with fewer main posters.

    However, you have a more varied content than the typical legal blog so that may contribute to the fact that legal book publishers overlook you when it comes to comps. (I think it’s a mistake and definitely their loss. They could use blogs like yours to better crossover with sales to the general public.) You also have a better looking blog that, ironically, may work against people viewing this as a serious *boring* law blog. Finally, the fact that you’ve become known for your LA Times’ coverage probably complicates this, not only because it detracts from your law focus but also because publishers may shy away from your reviews. (Do publishers stick together?)

    In addition, I’ve never understood why you aren’t a part of PJ Media and why you don’t have more Blog Ads but I assumed it was because your blog is too close to the middle. Too little to be an Instapundit but too big and diverse to be a niche blog. But what do I know? I’m just a picky consumer.

    BTW while I’m on this topic, can you refresh your FUQs or post information on the donation methods you allow: PayPal, Amazon (your wishlist is 3 or 4 years old, so I’m not clear whether it’s active), direct donations, other? I’m sure others would like this information but, if you prefer, please email me.

    DRJ (e69ca7)

  5. The BlogAds is a weird deal. Now that the election season is over, nobody’s buying, although I have lowered the prices considerably. They were coming pretty hot and heavy before. At some point, BlogAds switched to a new format, and I have gotten very few ads since.

    Being a Pajamas Media blogger would have meant switching to a two-margin format, which I didn’t want to do.

    My Amazon wish list is not anywhere near up to date. I take PayPal donations, which there is a button at the bottom of the page.

    Patterico (a8fa4a)

  6. Check your tip jar, Patrick. I’ve enjoyed your blog for quite some time now, and from time to time get the feeling that I owe you something for your efforts. (Usually, I can chase those feelings away.)

    The tip will cover the cost of the book.

    From a (gratefully) retired City of LA civil servant.

    ManlyDad (d62cf6)

  7. Hey, thanks! I didn’t mean to sound whiny or begging or anything. But I appreciate it very much.

    Now I *will* owe you a review . . .

    Patterico (a8fa4a)

  8. Like I said, I’ve often thought about a donation. But I didn’t want it to go for beer. This way, I have a greater chance of the funds going to something edifying.

    ManlyDad (d62cf6)

  9. any fan of mine deserves a seat on the u.s. supreme court.

    long dong silver (f5435d)

  10. One question: What the hell am I doing on a law blog :(

    Other than that, I love the posts, comments (mostly) and the news that I couldn’t get just anywhere. You do a great job Pat (and I’m not saying that just because you link me) … cause you don’t :)

    But I would love to give, atm I cannot (family situations have forced me to ask for donations lately) but I will when/if I get back on my feet.

    Lord Nazh (3465cc)

  11. Bill wrote:

    Bye the way, I couldn’t see the “live Preview of Comment” on this one. Is it working?

    I’ve found on this site that the live preview works well, right up until the point you use the blockquote function; then it freezes up.

    This time I tried adding the blockquote tags manually, and now I can’t even see the quote in the live preview!

    Dana (556f76)

  12. Our frugal host wrote:

    But since I always elect “Super Saver Shipping” from Amazon, that may be a while.

    To give amazon.com due credit, they’ve been very prompt shipping to me. I ordered Jimmy Carter’s book (and stop throwing things at me for that!) on the 20th (a Saturday), and it arrived in the morning on Tuesday the 23rd.

    Dana (556f76)

  13. His lordship wrote:

    You do a great job Pat (and I’m not saying that just because you link me) … cause you don’t :)

    Hey, Nazh, let me know if that one worked! :)

    Dana (556f76)

  14. The key to getting free stuff is asking for it .. good chance you’d get the book if you asked ..

    PrestoPundit (a2369b)

  15. Not exactly sure what you were doing Dana, but I can’t load your site (internal 500 server error) so I can’t really tell :(

    The way to use the blockquote AND see the live preview is to type your whole post (checking preview) then highlight the quotes and click blockquote and submit (since you checked before, it should still be good)

    Like this

    Lord Nazh (3465cc)

  16. 1) Review everything you read.

    2) Then, after a while, ask. Provide stats.

    3) Amazon Prime. WELL worth it.

    Kevin Murphy (805c5b)


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