His 78th Year Finds Brandeis Deep in Supreme Court Duties
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His 78th Year Finds Brandeis Deep in Supreme Court Duties

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Louis Dembitz Brandeis, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, spent today in his usual routine despite the fact that it was his seventy-eighth birthday. Since the retirement of his distinguished colleague and frequent companion in dissent, Oliver Wendell Holmes, he has been the oldest of the nine occupants of the nation’s highest tribunal.

Next January 28 Mr. Justice Brandeis will attain the nineteenth anniversary of his appointment to the Supreme Court. His selection by President Wilson in 1916 to fill a vacancy caused by the death of Joseph R. Lamar brought an uproar of objection from reactionary and predatory interests, on whose #oes he frequently and fearlessly had trodden during his practice of law. It was not until June of that year, after all manner of futile attempts had been made to discredit him, that the Senate confirmed the appointment.


Born in Louisville, Ky., the son of Bohemian immigrants, Louis D. Brandeis studied in Germany and worked his way through Harvard University Law School, from which he was graduated with highest honors at the age of twenty.

He first began his legal practice in St. Louis, but spent only a short time there when Samuel D. Warren, with whom he had attended Harvard, asked him to come to Boston to form the firm of Warren and Brandeis.

There he began a career which found him arrayed time after time on the side of the public in unyielding fights to prevent its betrayal by traction, utilities, insurance and other big business interests.


His liberal viewpoint caused him to become widely feared by organizations and individuals who could not afford the piercing, factual scrutiny to which he subjected them, once he entered a case. Eventually, men who realized he would give no ground began attacking him as a “radical,” a label which was unsuccessfully used against him in an effort to prevent confirmation of his appointment to the Supreme Court.

A writer has described Justice Brandeis as a “social engineer rather than an advocate of labor, an analyst rather than a partisan.” The implications contained in this characterization explain the storm of antagonism which broke out when President Wilson designated him as Justice Lamar’s successor.


His reputation in the Supreme Court has rested largely on his dissenting opinions, which, along with those of former Justice Holmes, comprise an impressive record of liberalism in a body which by its nature is inclined to be ultra-conservative.

Since the inception of the Roosevelt regime he has come into new prominence as an acknowledged advisor to members of the administrative family, who have gone to him voluntarily for counsel on problems of wide social import. Felix Frankfurter, his personal friend, and numerous young Harvard graduates whom in the past Professor Frankfurter has sent to Washington to serve as secretaries to both Brandeis and Holmes, have helped draft many New Deal laws and regulations. The general tenor of the Roosevelt administration is closer to the heart of the Associate Justice than any other during which he has been on the bench.

His Jewish colleague and fellow liberal in the Supreme Court today is Associate Justice Benjamin N. Cardozo.

Although, as he himself expressed it, he has been “one who had lived most of my life apart from the Jewish people,” he has been an ardent and active Zionist for many years.

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