Louis D. Brandeis: A Life
Melvin I. Urofsky
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As a young lawyer in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Louis Brandeis, born into a family of reformers who came to the United States to escape European anti-Semitism, established the way modern law is practiced. He was an early champion of the right to privacy and pioneer the idea of pro bono work by attorneys. Brandeis invented savings bank life insurance in Massachusetts and was a driving force in the development of the Clayton Antitrust Act, the Federal Reserve Act, and the law establishing the Federal Trade Commission.
Brandeis witnessed and suffered from the anti-Semitism rampant in the United States in the early twentieth century, and with the outbreak of World War I, became at age fifty-eight the head of the American Zionist movement. During the brutal six-month congressional confirmation battle that ensued when Woodrow Wilson nominated him to the Supreme Court in 1916, Brandeis was described as “a disturbing element in any gentlemen’s club.” But once on the Court, he became one of its most influential members, developing the modern jurisprudence of free speech and the doctrine of a constitutionally protected right to privacy and suggesting what became known as the doctrine of incorporation, by which the Bill of Rights came to apply to the states. In this award-winning biography, Melvin Urofsky gives us a panoramic view of Brandeis’s unprecedented impact on American society and law.
school, he joined his parents in returning to the United States. They sailed from Le Havre on 5 May 1875 under somewhat straitened circumstances compared with the trip over. Frederika and Fannie traveled second class, while Adolph, Amy, and Louis occupied third-class cabins. They reached America on 18 May, and after a visit with friends in Brookline, Massachusetts, returned home to Louisville on 1 June 1875, nearly three years after they had left. The trip allowed the adults to renew old
his views on life with his wife, Alice, but aside from the letters he wrote while courting her, this exchange of views seems to have taken place in intimate conversations between them. He wrote to her almost every day when away from home as well as to his brother, Alfred, and he spoke to them of many things—his activities, the people he met, political gossip—but not about what he felt, what disappointments he may have had, what sorrows he endured. If at times he seemed two-dimensional and
Co., decided together with United States v. Bankers’ Trust Co., 294 U.S. 240 (1935). “Shame and humiliation”: William G. Ross, The Chief Justiceship of Charles Evans Hughes (Columbia, S.C., 2007), 63. morality of the repudiation: Melvin I. Urofsky, “Brandeis-Frankfurter Conversations,” 1985 Supreme Court Review 337. be declared unconstitutional: Marian McKenna, Franklin Roosevelt and the Great Constitutional War: The Court-Packing Crisis of 1937 (New York, 2002), 62–63. common goal—recovery:
place. Their correspondence over the next few months included references to Franz Grillparzer, Shakespeare, Thomas à Kempis, Emerson, Matthew Arnold, and Voltaire, to name a few. Louis had found his soul mate, and he now set out to court her. Alice saved nearly all of the letters that Louis wrote to her from the time they met as adults until after he went on the Court and stopped traveling. The first, dated 9 June 1890, in response to an invitation to visit her and her family at their summer
had strong views on certain evils such as bigness, but he never went looking for a fight. Fights seemed to find him. IN WRITING TO HIS BROTHER on 26 June 1907, Louis noted, “The Savings Bank bill is now in the Governor’s hands. It looks as if we shall get some kind of anti-merger bill, but not as good a one as I should wish. The achievement of 80 cent gas gives me such satisfaction at this time when my merger position is being much attacked.” He hoped that Curtis Guild would endorse his bill,