1916 January 29

Louis Brandeis Nominated for Supreme Court


Nominated by President Woodrow Wilson on this day, Louis Brandeis became one of the great civil libertarians in the history of the Court. His nomination was confirmed by the Senate on June 1, 1916. He was also the first Jewish American to serve on the Court, and his nomination was marred by anti-Semitic attacks on his character. There were also allegations that his economic views were “radical,” but in fact he was simply a very creative progressive reformer who had advised President Woodrow Wilson on economic policy.

Brandeis joined Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., in Abrams v. United States (November 10, 1919), in a dissent that articulated a vision of the role of free speech in a democracy which influenced subsequent First Amendment law. He wrote influential opinions in Whitney v. California (decided on May 16, 1927), which further developed his influential view of the First Amendment, and Olmstead v. United States (decided on June 4, 1928), in which he articulated a constitutional right to privacy. Brandeis and a colleague published a law review article on December 15, 1990 that is regarded as the first discussion of a right to privacy.

Read the new biography: Jeffrey Rosen, Louis D. Brandeis: American Prophet (2016)

Read: Melvin I. Urofsky, Louis D. Brandeis: A Life (2009)

Watch a short documentary on Brandeis: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XwDP5vWXd3g

Learn more: Philippa Strum, Brandeis on Democracy (1995)

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