In Dicta

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Judicial biographies (or hagiographies?)

Jeff Rosen has an interesting article out in today's New York Times:

"During his Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Judge Samuel Alito talked frequently about his father, an Italian immigrant. "My father was brought to this country as an infant," Alito declared. "He grew up in poverty." Offering up homey autobiographical anecdotes to build political support is a familiar strategy among nominees. But now personal exposure is becoming a strategy for judges to connect to the public even after they are confirmed: In 2002, Clarence Thomas received a $1.5 million advance for a memoir, tentatively entitled "From Pin Point to Points After," that promises to describe his rise from obscurity, including his personal impressions of his "emotionally overwhelming" confirmation battle, in which he was accused of sexual harassment by Anita Hill. And Sandra Day O'Connor recently appeared on "Good Morning America" to promote "Chico," her second book about her childhood on the Lazy B Ranch.

In an unbuttoned, confessional age, the judiciary has remained the last institution of American government to resist the public's relentless demands for personal exposure. But the norms about what's appropriate for judges to reveal about themselves are in the middle of a sea change. Before the gossipy anonymous blog Underneath Their Robes (which insists that judges should be treated as "legal celebrities") temporarily shut down last November, Judge Alex Kozinski wrote the site a playful letter nominating himself as a "judicial hottie" while Judge Richard A. Posner - one of the first federal judges to start his own blog - sent giddy fan e-mail messages."

Interesting stuff. Keep reading.

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