LOUIS D. BRANDEIS was born in Louisville, Kentucky, on November 13, 1856. He attended preparatory school in Dresden, Germany, and was admitted to Harvard Law School in 1874. Following graduation in 1877, Brandeis moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where he practiced law. He returned to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and opened a law office with a law school classmate. During his career in private practice, Brandeis secured enactment of a state law providing low-cost insurance through savings banks, defended municipal control of Boston’s subway system, and arbitrated labor disputes in the garment district of New York, New York. Brandeis was active in support of his alma mater and to civic affairs and was one of the founders of the Harvard Law Review. President Woodrow Wilson nominated Brandeis to the Supreme Court of the United States on January 28, 1916, and the Senate confirmed the appointment on June 1, 1916. He retired from the Supreme Court on February 13, 1939, after twenty-two years of service. He died on October 5, 1941, at the age of eighty-four.
“Brandeis wanted to make meaningful changes in the world and bring it closer to how he felt it ought to be. Whether the subject was worker’s rights or women’s rights, the legitimization of unions or life insurance fraud, he always brought to the table his innate sense of fairness and idealism. He had little interest in material wealth, except for the freedom it offered him to pursue altruistic endeavors. He once told his niece that “ideals are everything,” and claimed that his guiding principle in all affairs was to always maintain ‘a general calm toward every situation.’ The carefully constructed self-com-posure Brandeis maintained certainly must have masked an anger he felt at the slights hurled upon him because of his Jewish origin. Urofsky reveals that when his law partner, Samuel Warren, was to be wed, Brandeis was not invited, since Warren’s future bride refused to have a Jew attend her wedding. When Brandeis served on the Supreme Court, his fellow justice James Clark McReynolds refused to sit with him or to be photographed with him; he also wouldn’t listen to him address the court, choosing instead to leave the courtroom when Brandeis spoke. Yet, Urofsky is unable to find any written communication by Brandeis that expresses irritation at these or other brazen insults he must have endured.”
“If he is remembered for nothing else, he is remembered for discovering a constitutional right to privacy, which became the underpinning of the right to abortion. But there is more. Brandeis upheld the right of an individual to think as you will and to speak as you think, even against the government. He enunciated a right to be left alone by the government as the right most valued by civilized men. He held that decency, security and liberty require that government officials be subjected to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen. He asserted that a doctrine of separation of powers was adopted not to promote efficiency, but to preclude the exercise of arbitrary power. And on an issue hotly debated during the Roosevelt New Deal days, he held that there must be power in the states and in the nation to re-mold through experimentation our economic practices and institutions. And a few other lines from Brandeis. The best disinfectant is sunshine. The most important political office is that of the private citizen. And finally, those who won our independence did not fear political change. They did not exalt order at the cost of liberty.”