The Man Behind the Curtain: Discovering Justice Clarence Thomas and the Role of Judicial Biographies
In his recent study of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, author Corey Robin declares that compared to Thomas, “few judges have made their biographies so central to their understanding of what it is they do as judges.” Robin’s book, The Enigma of Clarence Thomas, is an attempt to understand and find cohesion in the Justice’s unique jurisprudence. Robin concedes upfront, however, the discomfort this type of concession to personal history is likely to produce in the legal profession. American law, drawn from its English antecedent, has long been conceptualized as above lived experience, as natural and preexistent, or otherwise “discovered” by disinterested judges. But it is not that Thomas is an outlier for developing a judicial philosophy guided by personal experience. Instead, it is the substance of Thomas’ lived experiences that make him an outlier on the Court.