@CoreyRobin opines on Clarence Thomas: ‘It’s about his jurisprudence.’

Political Observer comments.

As well argued as it is, Mr. Robin essay fails to look at the fact that, if I have the cash, to make a donation to the Supreme Court ‘charity’, I can purchase an audience with a Supreme Court Judge. What might that mean? Corruption is a fact of the life of the Supreme Court?

What might Minding the Law by Anthony G. Amsterdam and Jerome Bruner offer? a pathbreaking approach to Jurisprudential Interpretation ?

In this remarkable collaboration, one of the nation’s leading civil rights lawyers joins forces with one of the world’s foremost cultural psychologists to put American constitutional law into an American cultural context. By close readings of key Supreme Court opinions, they show how storytelling tactics and deeply rooted mythic structures shape the Court’s decisions about race, family law, and the death penalty.

Minding the Law explores crucial psychological processes involved in the work of lawyers and judges: deciding whether particular cases fit within a legal rule (“categorizing”), telling stories to justify one’s claims or undercut those of an adversary (“narrative”), and tailoring one’s language to be persuasive without appearing partisan (“rhetorics”). Because these processes are not unique to the law, courts’ decisions cannot rest solely upon legal logic but must also depend vitally upon the underlying culture’s storehouse of familiar tales of heroes and villains.

But a culture’s stock of stories is not changeless. Anthony G. Amsterdam and Jerome Bruner argue that culture itself is a dialectic constantly in progress, a conflict between the established canon and newly imagined “possible worlds.” They illustrate the swings of this dialectic by a masterly analysis of the Supreme Court’s race-discrimination decisions during the past century.

A passionate plea for heightened consciousness about the way law is practiced and made, Minding the Law will be welcomed by a new generation concerned with renewing law’s commitment to a humane justice.


My copy is dated 2000. A review in the Los Angeles Times of Sunday ,December 17, 2000, by Edward Lazarus, titled ‘Sorting It Out’ still acts as my book mark.

Mr. Robin offers – its almost Marxian, of a sort ?

Perhaps, taking a page from Clarence Thomas, we can pursue a different path. If money is speech that secures outsized influence and access for the wealthiest citizens, maybe the problem is not the presence of money in politics but the distribution of money in the economy.

As radical as that claim may sound today, it has been the heart and soul of democratic argument since the founding of the republic. Noah Webster, of American dictionary fame, claimed in 1790 that “the basis of a democratic and a republican form of government is a fundamental law favoring an equal or rather a general distribution of property.” Without that equal distribution of wealth and power, “liberty expires.”

If money is speech, the implication for democracy is clear. There can be no democracy in the political sphere unless there is equality in the economic sphere. That is the real lesson of Clarence Thomas.



On this vexing question:

…when liberal titans William Brennan and Thurgood Marshall co-authored the Buckley decision, which held that campaign expenditures are in fact speech — progressives have sought to reverse the oligarchic turn of American society by getting money out of politics.

If a Jurist is to become a viable candidate for the Supreme Court, she/he must be Capitalist Friendly!

April 19, 2023: Some further thoughts:

Is Mr. Robin ‘playing it safe’ by not expanding his critique of Clarence Thomas’ corruption, to the rest of the Court? Bill Blum of Truth Dig offers this on John Roberts’ ‘Annual Report’:

Headline: Chief Justice Roberts’ Annual Report on the Federal Judiciary Is a Study in Hypocrisy

Sub-headline: A Supreme Court ritual ignores a crisis of legitimacy.

On Dec. 31, 2022, John Roberts, the chief justice of the United States Supreme Court, released his annual report on the state of the federal judiciary. The report is a yearly ritual in which the head of the high tribunal provides a statistical summary of the number of cases filed in the federal courts during the previous 12 months, and in which the chief typically extols the virtues of the men and women who staff the third branch of our national government. 

This year’s report, however, made no mention of the court’s current crisis of legitimacy, which was greatly aggravated by its decision last term rescinding the federal constitutional right to abortion. Nor did Roberts discuss the urgent need for the court to adopt a code of ethics to prevent the justices from engaging in rampant conflicts of interest, such as those involving Justice Clarence Thomas and his right-wing activist spouse Ginni Thomas.


Chief Justice Roberts’ Annual Report on the Federal Judiciary Is a Study in Hypocrisy

Mr. Bloom also offers this telling critique of The Supreme Court

Headline: Part II: It Will Take a Political Movement to Reform a Politicized Supreme Court

Sub-headline: It is time to revive Franklin Roosevelt’s court-expansion plan in defense of democracy and the rule of law.

The radical right’s long crusade to capture the Supreme Court is over. Anyone who doesn’t realize this hasn’t been paying attention, or has imbibed the Kool-Aid served by Chief Justice John Roberts at his 2005 Senate confirmation hearing, when he promised to work as a neutral arbiter on the bench much like a baseball umpire, calling only “balls and strike, and not to pitch or bat.”

Instead of minding the strike zone, Roberts and his Republican confederates old and new have changed the rules of the game in a concerted effort to drive the country backward. Under the aegis of the regressive legal theory of “originalism” (see Part I of this series), they have issued a blistering succession of reactionary rulings on voting rightsgerrymanderingunion organizing, the death penaltyenvironmental protectiongun controlabortioncampaign finance, and the use of dark money in politics. Before the court’s current term concludes at the end of June, it likely will wreak more havoc in a series of pending cases on “religious liberty” and LGBTQ discriminationaffirmative actionstudent-debt forgiveness, and, once again, voting rights.

The court is at war with democracy and modernity. It must be stopped.


Political Observer


About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.' https://www.lrb.co.uk/v15/n20/perry-anderson/diary
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