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CRF Blog » Blog Archive » Justice Brandeis in review

CRF Blog

Justice Brandeis in review

by Damon Huss

Melvin I. Urofsky’s 2009 biography of Justice Louis Brandeis, Louis Brandeis: A Life, has received many interesting reviews in the press. Brandeis was, indeed, a potent force as both a lawyer, co-authoring one of the most influential law review articles ever (“The Right to Privacy”) and as a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, where he served for 23 years.

Here are two notable reviews:

Famed lawyer Alan Dershowitz writes in the New York Times that Brandeis is, in his opinion, third in a ranking of the top three justices in history (after Chief Justice John Marshall and Brandeis’ contemporary, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes). Brandeis “defied labeling” but also “led the Supreme Court in upholding progressive (some called it radical) legislative innovations in the areas of labor law, protection of women and fairness to the poor.”

Damon W. Root over at Reason magazine takes a more critical approach from a libertarian perspective. He says Brandeis set a double-standard of judicial restraint: That it should be used when considering economic freedom but should be abandoned when considering civil liberties (like free speech).