1957 February 26

Court Nominee Brennan Gives Surprising Answers at Confirmation Hearings

 

William J. Brennan, nominated for a seat on the Supreme Court by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, gave testimony at his confirmation hearing on this day that was quite surprising, given his decisions once he was on the Court. He said he approved of legislative investigations into possible Communist associations of individuals. It appears that in his testimony, Brennan was trying to deflect the criticisms of Senator Joe McCarthy, who had attacked him for some earlier remarks, when Brennan attacked “overzealous” anti-Communist measures. Brennan had joined the Court on October 15, 1956, through an interim appointment, and the Senate, in early 1957, was finally getting around to confirming him.

Once on the Court, however, Brennan became one of the greatest civil libertarians ever to serve on the Court, and in several cases limited legislative investigations into political beliefs and associations. Particularly important, see the decisions on “Red Monday,” June 17, 1957, just one year after he joined the Court, when the Court struck down a series of anti-Communist measures.

Learn more about Justice Brennan: Roger Goldman and David Gallen, Justice William J. Brennan, Jr.: Freedom First (1994)

Watch University of Chicago Law Professor Geoffrey Stone discuss his year as a clerk for Justice Brennan: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YN2MMlr07U

Learn more: Seth Stern and Stephen Wermiel, Justice Brennan: Liberal Champion (2010)

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