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)

Find a Day

Abortion Rights ACLU african-americans Alice Paul anti-communism Anti-Communist Hysteria Birth Control Brown v. Board of Education Censorship CIA Civil Rights Civil Rights Act of 1964 Cold War Espionage Act FBI First Amendment Fourteenth Amendment freedom of speech Free Speech Gay Rights Hate Speech homosexuality Hoover, J. Edgar HUAC Japanese American Internment King, Dr. Martin Luther Ku Klux Klan Labor Unions Lesbian and Gay Rights Loyalty Oaths McCarthy, Sen. Joe New York Times Obscenity Police Misconduct Same-Sex Marriage Separation of Church and State Sex Discrimination Smith Act Spying Spying on Americans Vietnam War Voting Rights Voting Rights Act of 1965 War on Terror Watergate White House Women's Rights Women's Suffrage World War I World War II Relocation Camps


Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear your comments, criticisms and suggestions!