When Mr. Frankfurter was a student in the Harvard Law School, Louis D. Brandeis was becoming the "people's lawyer" of Boston. When Mr. Frankfurter returned to the faculty of the school in 1914, Mr. Brandeis had become a controversial figure in the community. His activities enlisted the enthusiastic interest of Mr. Frankfurter, and the friendship which the two men formed in Boston has continued to the present time. For Mr. Justice Brandeis, as for Mr. Justice Holmes, Mr. Frankfurter annually selected a secretary from among the young graduates of the Harvard Law School. The following selection was written shortly after President Wilson nominated Mr. Brandeis to the Supreme Court, and appeared as an unsigned editorial in the New Republic for February 5, 1916.
ONE PUBLIC benefit has already accrued from the nomination of Mr. Brandeis. It has started discussion of what the Supreme Court means in American life. From much of the comment since Mr. Brandeis's nomination it would seem that multitudes of Americans seriously believe that the nine Justices embody pure reason, that they are set apart from the concerns of the community, regardless of time, place, and circumstances, to become the interpreter of sacred words with meaning fixed forever and ascertainable by a process of ineluctable reasoning. Yet the notion not only runs counter to all we know of human nature, it betrays either ignorance or false knowledge of the actual work of the Supreme Court as disclosed by two hundred and thirty-nine volumes of United States Reports. It assumes what is not now and never was the function of the Supreme Court.