Louis Brandeis

Brandeis, Louis Dembitz

Louis Dembitz Brandeis (brăn´dīs), 1856–1941, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1916–39), b. Louisville, Ky., grad. Harvard law school, 1877. As a successful Boston lawyer (1879–1916), Brandeis distinguished himself by investigating insurance practices and by establishing (1907) Massachusetts savings-bank insurance. After defending (1900–1907) the public interest in Boston utility cases, he served (1907–14) as counsel for the people in proceedings involving the constitutionality of wages and hours laws in Oregon, Illinois, Ohio, and California. In Muller v. Oregon (1908) he persuaded the U.S. Supreme Court that minimum-hours legislation for women was reasonable—and not unconstitutional—with a brief primarily consisting of statistical, sociological, economic, and physiological information. This "Brandeis brief," as it came to be called, revolutionized legal practice by ensuring that the law would not be viewed as rigid and unchanging, but would be responsive to new situations, new realities, and new facts as they arose.

Brandeis opposed (1907–13) the monopoly of transportation in New England and successfully argued (1910–14) before the Interstate Commerce Commission against railroad-rate increases. In 1910 as a counsel in the congressional investigation of Richard A. Ballinger, he exposed the anticonservationist views of President Taft's secretary of the interior. As an arbitrator (1910) of a strike of New York garment workers, who were mainly Jewish, Brandeis, a largely secular Jew, became acutely aware of Jewish problems and afterward became a leader of the Zionist movement. An enemy of industrial and financial monopoly, he formulated the economic doctrine of the New Freedom that Woodrow Wilson adopted in his 1912 presidential campaign.

In 1916, over the protests of vested interests whom Brandeis had alienated in his role as "people's attorney" and despite opposition voiced by anti-Semites and certain business interests, Wilson appointed him to the U.S. Supreme Court, and he became the first Jewish justice. Long an advocate of social and economic reforms, he maintained a position of principled judicial liberalism on the bench. With Oliver Wendell Holmes, he often dissented from the majority. After Franklin Delano Roosevelt became (1933) president, Brandeis was one of the few justices who voted to uphold most of Roosevelt's New Deal legislation. He retired from the bench in 1939. Brandeis Univ. is named after him. He wrote Other People's Money (1914) and Business, a Profession (1914).

For selections of his writings, see Alfred Lief, ed., The Social and Economic Views of Mr. Justice Brandeis (1930), O. K. Fraenkel, ed., The Curse of Bigness (1935), and Solomon Goldman, ed., The Words of Justice Brandeis (1953). See also his letters, ed. by M. I. Urofsky and D. W. Levy (1971); biographies by A. T. Mason (1946, repr. 1956) and M. I. Urofsky (2009); studies by M. I. Urofsky (1971, repr. 1981), P. Strum (1984), N. L. Dawson, ed. (1989), and J. Rosen (2016); A. M. Bickel, The Unpublished Opinions of Mr. Justice Brandeis (1957).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

Louis Brandeis: Selected full-text books and articles

Louis D. Brandeis and the Progressive Tradition By Melvin I. Urofsky; Oscar Handlin Little, Brown, 1981
Brandeis: A Free Man's Life By Alpheus Thomas Mason The Viking Press, 1946
The Unpublished Opinions of Mr. Justice Brandeis: The Supreme Court at Work By Louis Dembitz Brandeis; Alexander M. Bickel Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1957
Stewards of Democracy: Law as a Public Profession By Paul D. Carrington Westview Press, 1999
Librarian's tip: Chap. 15 "Louis Brandeis"
Judicial Entrepreneurship: The Role of the Judge in the Marketplace of Ideas By Wayne V. McIntosh; Cynthia L. Cates Greenwood Press, 1997
Librarian's tip: Chap. 2 "Louis Brandeis: The Consummate Entrepreneur"
Transforming Privacy: A Transpersonal Philosophy of Rights By Stefano Scoglio Praeger Publishers, 1998
Librarian's tip: Chap. 6 "Brandeis, Douglas, and the Transpersonal Theory of Rights"
The Brandeis Gambit: The Making of America's "First Freedom," 1909-1931 By Bobertz, Bradley C William and Mary Law Review, Vol. 40, No. 2, February 1999
Elusive Advocate: Reconsidering Brandeis as People's Lawyer By Spillenger, Clyde The Yale Law Journal, Vol. 105, No. 6, April 1996
"Cold, Hard Facts": Justice Brandeis and the Oklahoma Ice Case By Sellars, Nigel Anthony The Historian, Vol. 63, No. 2, Winter 2001
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Mr. Justice Brandeis and the Creation of the Federal Register By Feinberg, Lotte E Public Administration Review, Vol. 61, No. 3, May 2001
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
American Legal Culture, 1908-1940 By John W. Johnson Greenwood Press, 1981
Librarian's tip: Chap. 3 "A Revolution in Legal Analysis: The Strategic Genius of Louis Brandeis"
Our Constitution: Tool or Testament? By Beryl Harold Levy A.A. Knopf, 1941
Librarian's tip: Chap. IV "Brandeis: Democracy Militant"
Wall Street: A History: From Its Beginnings to the Fall of Enron By Charles R. Geisst Oxford University Press, 2004
Librarian's tip: Discussion of Louis Brandeis begins on p. 137
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