1997 July 24

Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Dies


Appointed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Justice William J. Brennan served for almost 36 years on the Supreme Court and stands as one of the greatest civil libertarians in the history of the Court. He is widely considered to have been the intellectual architect of the Warren Court’s expansion of civil liberties. Among his important opinions was New York Times v. Sullivan (March 9, 1964), which included one of the most eloquent statements of the meaning of freedom of speech in a democracy. Other important opinions included NAACP v. Button, (April 2, 1963), which protected legal advocacy by lawyers, and Baker v. Carr (March 26, 1962), which held that legislative apportionment was a constitutional issue and prepared the way for the subsequent decision enunciating the “one man, note vote” principle. Brennan also wrote the opinion in Roth v. United States (June 24, 1957), which, although it held that obscenity was not protected by the First Amendment, it set the stage for subsequent decisions expanding freedom of expression for sexually oriented books and movies.

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

Learn more about Justice Brennan; opinions, quotations, articles, and more: http://www.brennancenter.org/celebrating-justice-brennan

Hear Justice Brennan discuss the Constitution (Advisory: he does not appear until 13 minutes into the video):  http://www.c-span.org/video/?9541-1/influence-us-constitution

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

Justice Brennan’s work continues at the NYU Brennan Center for Justice: http://www.brennancenter.org/

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