Washington Post Sees Parallels in Fights on Brandeis, Fortas Appointments

The Washington Post said in an editorial today that there were “illuminating and deeply disquieting parallels” between the fight over the confirmation of Abe Fortas’ appointment to be Chief Justice of the United States and the fight over the confirmation in 1916 of Louis D. Brandeis’ appointment to the Supreme Court by President Woodrow Wilson. The editorial noted that “Mr Brandeis was the first Jew ever named to sit on the Supreme Court; Mr. Fortas is the first Jew to be named as Chief Justice of the U.S. Both men were extraordinarily successful and distinguished in private practice…(and) championing extremely controversial litigants in outstanding public causes. Both men were exponents of social and juridical philosophies outrageous to the legal and political mossbacks of their time.”

The editorial recalled the attempts by opponents of Justice Brandeis to injure his reputation by questioning his conduct in cases that he handled. But the Post said, “there was one significant difference…from the Fortas situation today. No one — not even the men most steeped in hatred of Woodrow Wilson — suggested in 1916 that confirmation should be blocked by a filibuster. The Senate took four months to make up its mind about Brandeis. But none of its members was so lost to honor, so devoid of commitment to the concept of majority rule, as to propose a frustration of the whole Senate by sheer obstructionism,” the paper said.

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