Justice Louis Brandeis

Justice Louis Brandeis joined the U.S. Supreme Court on June 5, 1916, replacing Justice Joseph Rucker Lamar. Brandeis was born on November 13, 1856 in Louisville, Kentucky. In 1877, he graduated from Harvard Law School with the highest grade point average in its history. Shortly afterward, Brandeis entered private practice. In 1890, he published an essay called "The Right to Privacy" in the Harvard Law Review, which greatly influenced the direction of the law in this field.

Brandeis also became known for the "Brandeis brief" in the 1908 case of Muller v. Oregon. He marshaled a massive amount of non-legal data rather than relying on his legal analysis in the brief that he submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court. This helped persuade the Court to uphold a law restricting the working hours of women, despite its general tendency to strike down economic regulations during this era.

After Woodrow Wilson won the 1912 presidential election, Brandeis advised him on economic policy. Among other things, he contributed to the creation of the Federal Trade Commission. On January 28, 1916, Wilson nominated Brandeis to the U.S. Supreme Court. Despite fierce controversy surrounding his nomination, the Senate confirmed him on June 1 in a 47-22 vote. Brandeis took the judicial oath four days later, becoming the first Jewish Justice in Supreme Court history.

During his quarter-century on the Court, Brandeis staunchly defended the freedom of speech under the First Amendment. His concurrence in Whitney v. California declared that "fear of serious injury cannot alone justify suppression of free speech and assembly." Brandeis also developed the right to privacy that he had described in his law review article. In a dissent from the (later overruled) decision of Olmstead v. U.S., he wrote that the Constitution provides "the right to be let alone" by the government.

Joining Justices Benjamin Cardozo and Harlan Fiske Stone, Brandeis was one of the liberal "Three Musketeers" on the Court. They opposed a conservative bloc known as the "Four Horsemen." Like the other Musketeers, Brandeis generally voted in favor of New Deal legislation and similar economic regulations.

Brandeis retired from the Court on February 13, 1939 and was replaced by Justice William O. Douglas. He died on October 5, 1941 in Washington, D.C. Brandeis is buried in Kentucky under the portico of the University of Louisville law school, one of many educational institutions that bears his name.

Selected Opinions by Justice Brandeis:

Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins (1938)

Topic: Lawsuits & Legal Procedures

A federal court exercising diversity jurisdiction must apply the state law as declared by the highest state court. There is no federal general common law.

North American Oil Consolidated v. Burnet (1932)

Topic: Taxes

If a taxpayer receives earnings under a claim of right and without restriction as to its disposition, he has received income that he is required to return, even though it may still be claimed that he is not entitled to retain the money, and even though he may still be adjudged liable to restore its equivalent.

Whitney v. California (Brandeis concurrence) (1927)

Topic: Free Speech

No danger flowing from speech can be deemed clear and present unless the incidence of the evil apprehended is so imminent that it may befall before there is opportunity for full discussion.

Zucht v. King (1922)

Topic: Health Care

City ordinances that require that students be vaccinated to attend school and that vest broad discretion in health authorities to determine when and under which circumstances such a requirement will be enforced do not violate the Fourteenth Amendment.

Chicago Board of Trade v. U.S. (1918)

Topic: Antitrust

The true test of legality is whether a restraint merely regulates and perhaps thereby promotes competition, or whether it may suppress or even destroy competition. To determine that question, a court must consider the facts peculiar to the business, its condition before and after the restraint was imposed, the nature of the restraint, and its effect, actual or probable. The history of the restraint, the evil believed to exist, the reason for adopting the particular remedy, and the purpose or end sought to be attained are all relevant facts.