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First Principles: The Jurisprudence of Clarence Thomas

8 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0814731000
ISBN-10: 0814731007
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Editorial Reviews


"The virture of Scott Gerber's new study ... is that it puts in better perspective Thomas's whole career."

-The Weekly Standard

"Gerber's book is a breath of fresh air, because it treats Justice Thomas and his work with respect and intellectual curiosity."

-Ideas on Liberty

"...the most comprehensive and incisive account of Thomas' political philosophy to date."

-First Things

"Gerber is scrupulously honest in dissecting Thomas' opinions, their legal background, and their place in the Court's jurisprudence, and he demonstrates his own excellent capabilities as an objective, fair, thoughtful, and thorough scholar."

-The Federal Lawyer

"...An excellent and balanced review of the justice's first years on the Court."

-National Review

About the Author

Scott Douglas Gerber, Ph.D., J.D., is author of To Secure These Rights: The Declaration of Independence and Constitutional Interpretation and editor of Seriatim: The Supreme Court before John Marshall, both available from New York University Press. He teaches at Ohio Northern University College of Law.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 305 pages
  • Publisher: NYU Press (April 15, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0814731007
  • ISBN-13: 978-0814731000
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,629,145 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

43 of 49 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 28, 1999
Format: Hardcover
While it is true to say that Clarence Thomas is one of the most vilified men to sit on the Supreme Court, it must also besaid that he has also often suffered from having the wrong kind of defenders. With the lonely exception of Senator John Danforth, practically none of Thomases defenders has taken the time to understand his thought or character. Finally, an inteeligent book has been written about Thomas, by someone who comes neither to glorify or condemn Clarence Thomas, but to UNDERSTAND him. Scot Gerber is one of the fastest rising stars in American constitutional thought.In this fine study, he analyzes Thomases opinions, and concludes that Thomas is not simply a tail to Antonin Scalias intellectual kite. Instead, Clarence Thomas ins a thoughtful, highly principled jurist, with a much deeper undrstanding of our Constitution and its foundations than many of his colleagues on the Court,(And the entire Democratic membership of the Senate Judiciary commitee, for that matter.)While Gerber is critical of many of Thomas' opinions,he is never crudely dismissive. Instead, he shows just how scholarly and intelligent this very misunderstood justice is.Why do I call this book 'courageous'.For one reason, and one reason alone. As I have already said, Scott Gerber is a rising star of constitutional theory.He is also a Liberal, in the classical, libertarian sense. However, in defending Thomas, he has risked prevoking the wrath of some very influential people. He has several hair -raising anecdotes in this book about how reputable law reviews have refused to print anything favorable to Clarence Thomas, and it is indeed doubtful that this fine book will meet with the respect it deserves.Read more ›
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 13, 1999
Format: Hardcover
In writing "First Principles," Scott Douglas Gerber has done something that few, if any, members of the media or legal cognoscenti have even contemplated: giving Justice Thomas a "fair shake."
Mr. Gerber should be commended for presenting a balanced portrait of Justice Thomas's jurisprudence. Gerber dispells the myth that Justice Thomas is merely Justice Scalia's second vote.
Mr. Gerber also does a good job of exposing the intellectual dishonesty of Thomas's critics. The picture he paints is clear: the current civil rights movement hates Thomas because he fails to tow the liberal, collectivist line. He actually thinks for himself. How remarkable!
After reading this book there can be no doubt that Thomas is his own man. Of course those of us who have taken the time out to actually READ HIS OPINIONS already knew this to be the case.
The only fault that I can find with this book is Mr. Gerber's mischaracterization of originalism. On page 183 of his book Gerber writes that conservative originalism is a flawed method of constitutional interpretation, musing "Why that document? Why that framer?"
Originalism is not that simple. As noted by Justice Scalia is his recent book, A Matter of Interpretation, "It is curious that most of those who insist that the drafter's intent gives meaning to a statute reject the drafter's intent as the criterion for interpretation of the Constitution. I reject it for both. I will consult the writings of some men who happened to be delegates to the Constitutional Convention--Hamilton's and Madison's writings in The Federalist for example.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 30, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I showed this book to a fellow law student who was reluctant to even hold it, let alone read it. The amazing, but not too shocking, part was the student's incredible prejudice about a Supreme Court justice. I asked if the student had read any of Justice Thomas's court opinions, "No". What did the fellow scholar know of Justice Thomas's personal life? "Only what I saw and heard during the Anita Hill hearings."
Gratefully, the author was much more fair. In law school we are often indoctrinated with a relentlessly biased viewpoint by most of the professors. The best professors help us to think about the law for ourselves. This book serves as a fine example of balance and analysis. The author supports his statements with examples and insight.
All through my Constitutional Law class I kept thinking that the Court was pulling decisions out of the thick Washington D.C. air. As a textualist I was searching for some comprehensive view of the Court's jurisprudence. My in-class quoting from the Constitution and Bill of Rights was often met with a "but that can't be what the framers meant" response. While I found Thomas's opinions striking a chord with me as I read the book, I did not agree with all of them without question.
This book should be repeated in purpose and teechnique for other standing justices as well as those we know from history. It goes along way towards understanding a justice's jurisprudence who will likely be with the Court for many years to come.
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