In the words of Plato, an ancient Greek philosopher, “Books give a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.” Truer words could never have been written, words which best describe, “The People’s Justice, Clarence Thomas and the Constitutional Stories that Define Him,” written by Amul Thapar, a judge on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
For me, before embarking on any journey through the pages of a book, I like to take a few minutes to read the comments from those who have reviewed the book. As I wandered down the back page of the dust cover on The People’s Justice, I was moved by the words of former U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr which read, “For anyone concerned about the country’s future, this is a must read.” That was it for me, even before starting to turn the pages, I was hooked.
Admittedly, as someone who loves the law, and someone who has always had a profound admiration for Justice Thomas, and his unwavering originalist view of constitutional law, I had anxiously awaited the arrival of Judge Thapar’s book. Too often, Justice Thomas receives the scorn of the media, a media which does not understand the cornerstone of Justice Thomas’s judicial philosophy, a philosophy which defines his years on the Court. Justice Thomas’s judicial philosophy is simple, “A judge should be evaluated by whether he faithfully upholds his oath to God, not to the people, to the state or the Constitution.” Justice Thomas’s judicial philosophy is borne out in the more than 700 Supreme Court opinions he has written since he joined the Court in 1991.
While it would be impossible for any of us to read all of Justice Thomas’s opinions to understand the man, a good starting point would be to borrow from Judge Thapar’s book when Judge Thapar wrote the following:
Courage is something he has practiced his entire life. Born in the tidelands of Georgia during the era of segregation, Justice Thomas knew what it was to be poor. People think “dirt poor” is a figure of speech. For Justice Thomas it was a reality – the floor of the shanty he was born in was hard-packed dirt.
Without giving away the plot of the book, let me share just a snapshot of the stories of real people, stories which unfold in the pages of the book as their cases journey through an oftentimes harsh legal system, cases which rarely find their way to the Supreme Court. Take for example the story of “Susette Kelo, who fought to keep her beloved house when the government and a big corporation partnered to take it from her.” And then you will read about the years long legal battle of “…the Cleveland parents who wanted their children to have access to effective education in safe schools.”
For me, if there was no other reason to read this book, it was the story about the cold-blooded murder of Betty Smothers, a single mom and Baton Rouge police officer, a story which began a twenty-year odyssey through a legal system for the family she left behind, a legal system which so often ignores the victims of crime and their families. This is the story about “…football star Warrick Dunn, who struggled to keep his family together after the brutal murder of his mother.” This is a story which will shock anyone who believes in justice. When you read this story in the book, you will be moved to tears realizing that even years later, Justice Thomas’s words in his dissenting opinion, were the only words which showed true compassion for Betty and her family, a compassion which has been characteristic of Justice Thomas’s years on the Court.
Throughout this astonishing book, Judge Thapar allows the reader to pull back the curtain to understand concerns of common Americans who find themselves in the crosshairs of the government. It also allows the reader to pull back the curtain and look into the mind of Justice Thomas. In the words of Laura Ingraham, former law clerk to Justice Thomas, “In this compelling account of the judicial philosophy and pivotal opinions of Justice Clarence Thomas, readers will find a new appreciation of both the man himself and our Framers.”
Rarely do I read a book which I would describe as a page turner. With that said, Judge Thapar’s unique writing style and the stories he chose to tell the story of Justice Thomas made it impossible for me to put down the book. Within a day, I had finished this amazing book and found myself thirsting for just one more story, one more chapter, and one more glimpse into an opinion written by Justice Thomas.
When I put down the book, I took a moment to write a brief note to Judge Thapar, a note that best described my thoughts about “The People’s Justice, Clarence Thomas and the Constitutional Stories that Define Him.” What I wrote Judge Thapar was the following:
Riveting! I could not put it down. Never before has a book moved me through a river of emotions, at times anger, sadness, and tears. Thank you for taking us behind the scenes and allowing us to view the Court through Justice Thomas’s eyes.
This book was not written only for legal scholars, law clerks, lawyers, judges, or people in the legal profession. This book was written for all of us, for everyone who still believes that the average person has someone in their corner fighting for them, someone who cares about the original meaning of the Constitution, the original meaning intended by our Founders. On a final note, after putting down the book, I still have questions for Judge Thapar about those he met on the path to writing the pages that fill the book.
Maybe the day will come when I will have an opportunity to spend an hour on a stage with Judge Thapar, an hour asking him about his time with those whose stories are written about in the book; an hour where I could ask him questions about his time with Justice Thomas as he wrote this book; and an hour asking Judge Thaper about his judicial philosophy, and more importantly, questions about what shaped Judge Thapar’s love for the law, and his belief in the original meaning of the Constitution as intended by our Founders.