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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Felix Frankfurter

In office
January 20, 1939[1] – August 28, 1962
Nominated by Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Preceded by Benjamin N. Cardozo
Succeeded by Arthur Goldberg

Born November 15, 1882(1882-11-15)
Vienna, Austria
Died February 22, 1965 (aged 82)
Washington, D.C.

Felix Frankfurter (November 15, 1882 – February 22, 1965) was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.


Early life

Frankfurter was born on November 15, 1882, in Vienna, Austria, third of six children of Leopold and Emma (Winter) Frankfurter.[2] His forebears had been rabbis for generations.[3] In 1894, when he was twelve, his family immigrated to the United States, where he learned English growing up on New York City's Lower East Side. Frankfurter attended P.S. 25 where he excelled at his studies and enjoyed chess and crap shooting on the street. He spent many hours reading at The Cooper Union as well as attending political lectures, usually on subjects such as trade unionism, socialism and communism.[4][5] After graduating from City College of New York, (Phi Beta Kappa)[6] in 1902, he worked for the Tenement House Department of New York City in order to raise money for law school. He applied successfully to Harvard Law School, where he excelled academically and socially. He made lifelong friends of Walter Lippmann and Horace Kallen, became an editor of the Harvard Law Review, and graduated with one of the best academic records since Louis Brandeis.[4][7]

Early career

Frankfurter's legal career began when he joined the New York law firm of Hornblower, Bryne, Miller and Porter in 1906. In the same year he became the assistant of Henry Stimson, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York.[8] During this period, Frankfurter read Herbert Croly's book The Promise of American Life, and became a supporter of New Nationalism and Theodore Roosevelt. In 1911, President William Howard Taft appointed Stimson as his Secretary of War, and Stimson appointed Frankfurter as law officer of the Bureau of Insular Affairs, though Frankfurter in fact worked as Stimson's assistant and confidant. His government position restricted his ability to publicly voice his progressive views, though he expressed his opinions clearly in private to friends such as Judge Learned Hand.[9] In 1912 Frankfurter supported the Bull Moose campaign to return Roosevelt to the presidency and was bitterly disappointed when Woodrow Wilson was elected. He became increasingly disillusioned with the established parties, and described himself as "politically homeless".[10]

First World War

Frankfurter's work in Washington had impressed the faculty at Harvard Law School, and a donation from the financier Jacob Schiff created a position for him there. He taught mainly administrative law and occasionally criminal law.[11] With fellow professor James M. Landis he advocated for judicial restraint in dealing with government misdeeds, including greater freedom for administrative agencies from judicial oversight.[12] He also served as counsel for the National Consumers League arguing for progressive causes such as minimum wage and restricted work hours.[3][11] He was involved in the early years of The New Republic when it was founded by Herbert Croly.[3][13]

When the United States entered World War I in 1917 Frankfurter took a special leave from Harvard to serve as special assistant to the Secretary of War Newton D. Baker.[14] He was appointed Judge Advocate General, supervising military courts-martial for the War Department.[15] In September 1917, he was appointed counsel to a commission established by President Wilson to resolve major strikes threatening war production, the President's Mediation Committee. Among the disturbances he investigated were the 1916 Preparedness Day Bombing in San Francisco, where he argued strongly that the radical leader Thomas Mooney had been framed and required a new trial.[16] He also examined the copper industry in Arizona, where industry bosses solved industrial relations problems by having more than 1,000 strikers forcibly deported to New Mexico.[17] Overall, Frankfurter's work gave him an opportunity to learn firsthand about labor politics and extremism, including anarchism, communism and revolutionary socialism. He came to sympathize with labor issues, arguing that "unsatisfactory, remediable social conditions, if unattended, give rise to radical movements far transcending the original impulse." His activities led the public to view him as a radical lawyer and supporter of radical principles,[16] and he was accused by former President Theodore Roosevelt of being "engaged in excusing men precisely like the Bolsheviki in Russia."[18]


As the war drew to a close, Frankfurter was among the nearly one hundred intellectuals who signed a statement of principles for the formation of the League of Free Nations Associations, which aimed to increase American participation in international affairs.[19]

Frankfurter was encouraged by Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis to become more involved in Zionism.[3] With Brandeis he lobbied President Wilson to support the Balfour Declaration, a British government statement supporting the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.[3] In 1918, he participated in the founding conference of the American Jewish Congress in Philadelphia creating a national democratic organization of Jewish leaders from all over the US.[20] In 1919, Frankfurter served as a Zionist delegate to the Paris Peace Conference.[3]

In 1919, Frankfurter married Marion Denman, the daughter of a Congregational minister and a Smith College graduate. They married after a long and difficult courtship, and against the wishes of his mother, who was disturbed by the prospect of her son marrying outside the Jewish faith.[18][21] Frankfurter himself was a non-practicing Jew, and regarded religion as "an accident of birth". Frankfurter was a dominating husband and Denman suffered from frail health, which resulted in frequent mental breakdowns.[18] The couple had no children.

Frankfurter's activities continued to attract attention for their alleged radicalism. In November 1919, he chaired a meeting in support of American recognition of the newly created Soviet Union.[22] In 1920, Frankfurter helped to found the American Civil Liberties Union.[3] Following the arrest of suspected communist radicals in 1919 and 1920 during the Palmer raids, Frankfurter, together with other prominent lawyers including Zechariah Chafee, signed an ACLU report which condemned the "utterly illegal acts committed by those charged with the highest duty of enforcing the laws" including entrapment, police brutality, prolonged incommunicado detention, and violations of due process in court. Frankfurter and Chafee also submitted briefs to a habeas corpus application to the Massachusetts Federal District Court. Judge George Anderson ordered the discharge of twenty aliens, and his denunciation of the raids effectively ended them.[23][24][25]

In 1921, Frankfurter was given a chair at Harvard Law School, and continued progressive work on behalf of socialists and oppressed and religious minorities. When A. Lawrence Lowell, the President of Harvard University, proposed to limit the enrollment of Jewish students, Frankfurter worked with others to defeat the plan.[18][26]

In the late 1920s, he came to public attention when he supported calls for a new trial for Sacco and Vanzetti, two Italian immigrant anarchists who had been sentenced to death on robbery and murder charges. Frankfurter wrote an influential article for the Atlantic Monthly and subsequently a book, The Case of Sacco and Vanzetti: A Critical Analysis for Lawyers and Laymen. He critiqued the prosecution's case and the judge's handling of the trial and asserted that the convictions were the result of anti-immigrant prejudice and enduring anti-radical hysteria of the Red Scare of 1919-20.[3][27] His actions further isolated him from his Harvard colleagues and from Boston society.[18]

New Deal years

Following the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932, Frankfurter quickly became a trusted and loyal adviser to the new President. He was among the most conservative of Roosevelt's advisers, arguing against the grandiose economic plans of Raymond Charles Moley, Adolf Berle and Rexford Guy Tugwell, while clearly recognizing the need for major changes to deal with the inequalities of wealth distribution that had led to the devastating nature of the Depression.[28] Frankfurter successfully recommended many bright young lawyers toward public service with the New Deal administration, so many indeed that they became known as "Felix's Happy Hot Dogs".[28][29] He moved to Washington, DC, commuting back to Harvard for classes, but as with previous experiences, was never fully accepted within government circles. He worked closely with Louis Brandeis, lobbying for political activities suggested by Brandeis. He declined a seat on the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts and, in 1933, the position of Solicitor General of the United States.[29] Long an anglophile, Frankfurter had studied in Oxford in 1920, and in 1933-4 he returned to act as visiting Eastman professor in the faculty of Law.[29][30]

Supreme Court

Following the death of Supreme Court Justice Benjamin N. Cardozo in July 1938, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked his old friend Frankfurter for recommendations of prospective candidates for the vacancy. Finding none on the list to suit his criteria, Roosevelt nominated Frankfurter himself, and he was confirmed without dissent.[31] He served from January 30, 1939 to August 28, 1962. He wrote 247 opinions for the Court, 132 concurring opinions, and 251 dissents.[32]

Despite his liberal political leanings, Frankfurter became the court's most outspoken advocate of judicial restraint, the view that courts should not interpret the fundamental law, the constitution, in such a way as to impose sharp limits upon the authority of the legislative and executive branches.[33] He also usually refused to apply the federal Constitution to the states.[34] In the case of Irvin v. Dowd, Frankfurter would state what was for him a frequent theme: "The federal judiciary has no power to sit in judgment upon a determination of a state court... Something that thus goes to the very structure of our federal system in its distribution of power between the United States and the state is not a mere bit of red tape to be cut, on the assumption that this Court has general discretion to see justice done...".[35]

In his judicial restraint philosophy, Frankfurter was heavily influenced by his close friend and mentor Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., who had taken a firm stand during his tenure on the bench against the doctrine of "economic due process". Frankfurter revered Justice Holmes, often citing Holmes in his opinions. In practice, this meant Frankfurter was generally willing to uphold the actions of those branches against constitutional challenges so long as they did not "shock the conscience." Frankfurter was particularly well known as a scholar of civil procedure.

Frankfurter's adherence to the judicial restraint philosophy was shown in the 1940 opinion he wrote for the court in Minersville School District v. Gobitis, a case involving Jehovah's Witnesses students who had been expelled from school due to their refusal to salute the flag and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. He rejected claims that First Amendment rights should be protected by law, and urged deference to the decisions of the elected school board officials. He stated that religious belief "does not relieve the citizen from the discharge of political responsibilities" and that exempting the children from the flag-saluting ceremony "might cast doubts in the minds of other children" and reduce their loyalty to the nation. Judge Harlan Fiske Stone issued a lone dissent. The court's decision sparked hundreds of violent attacks on Jehovah's witnesses throughout the country,[36] and was subsequently overturned in March 1943 by the Supreme Court decision on West Virginia Board of Education v. Barnette. Former ally, Supreme Court justice Robert H. Jackson wrote the majority opinion in this case, which also concerned Jehovah's Witnesses students expelled from school for refusing to salute the flag. Jackson's opinion, which contradicted Frankfurter's on most points, elicited an impassioned dissent from Frankfurter. In it he rejected the notion that as a Jew he ought "to particularly protect minorities." He reiterated his view that the role of the Court was not to give an opinion of the "wisdom or evil of a law" but only to determine "whether legislators could in reason have enacted such a law".[37][38]

In the apportionment case of Baker v. Carr, Frankfurter's position was that the federal courts did not have the right to tell sovereign state governments how to apportion their legislatures; he thought the Supreme Court should not get involved in political questions, whether federal or local.[39] Frankfurter's view had won out in the 1946 case preceding Baker, Colegrove v. Green - there, a 4-3 majority decided that the case was non-justiciable, and the federal courts had no right to become involved in state politics, no matter how unequal district populations had become.[39][40] However, the Baker case would settle the matter - the drawing of state legislative districts was within the purview of federal judges, despite Frankfurter's warnings that the Court should avoid entering "the political thicket."[41]

Frankfurter reaffirmed this view in a concurring opinion written for the 1951 Dennis v. United States Supreme Court ruling. The decision affirmed, by a 6-2 margin, the conviction of eleven communist leaders for conspiring to overthrow the US government under the Smith Act. In it, he once again argued that judges "are not legislators, that direct policy-making is not our province." He also recognized that curtailing the free speech of those who advocate the overthrow of government by force, also risked stifling criticism by those who did not, writing that "[it] is a sobering fact that in sustaining the convictions before us we can hardly escape restriction on the interchange of ideas."[42]

A pivotal school desegregation case came before the court in Brown v. Board of Education. It was argued, and was set for reargument when Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson died. It has been reported that Frankfurter remarked that Vinson's death was the first solid piece of evidence he had seen to prove the existence of God. It should be noted that this story was tied to a scheduled reargument in which Vinson's vote could be crucial (in Brown vs. Board of Education, where ostensibly Vinson was not disposed to overrule Plessy vs. Ferguson), and in any event, some believe the story to be "possibly apocryphal."[43]

Frankfurter demanded that the opinion in 1955's Brown v. Board of Education II order desegregation with the phrase of "all deliberate speed".[44] The phrase gave school boards across the country an excuse to defy the demands of the first Brown decision.[44] For fifteen years, schools in the South remained segregated, until the Supreme Court's opinion in Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education.[45] There, the Court would write that "The obligation of every school district is to terminate dual school systems at once and to operate now and hereafter only unitary schools."[46]

Frankfurter was hands-off in the area of business. In the 1956 government case against DuPont, started because DuPont seemed to have maneuvered its way into a preferential relationship with GM, Frankfurter refused to find a conspiracy, and said the Court had no right to interfere with the progress of business.[47][48] Here again, Frankfurter opposed the views of Justices Warren, Black, Douglas, and Brennan (though Frankfurter lost 4-3).[49]

Later in his career, Frankfurter's judicial restraint philosophy frequently put him on the dissenting side of ground-breaking decisions taken by the Warren Court to end discrimination.

Frankfurter believed that the authority of the Supreme Court would be reduced if it went too strongly against public opinion: He sometimes went to great lengths to avoid unpopular decisions, including fighting to delay court decisions against racial intermarriage.[50]

For the October 1948 Supreme Court Term, Frankfurter hired William Thaddeus Coleman as a law clerk, the first African American to serve as a Supreme Court law clerk.[51]

Personal Relations on the Court

Throughout his career on the court, Frankfurter was a large influence on many justices, such as Clark, Burton, Whittaker, and Minton.[52] He generally attempted to influence any new justice coming in,[53] though he managed to repel Justice Brennan - who had voted with Frankfurter half the time in his first year,[54] but then opposed him after Frankfurter's attempts at inculcation.[55] Frankfurter turned against Brennan completely after the case of Irvin v. Dowd. Other justices who received the Frankfurter treatment of flattery and instruction were Burton, Vinson, and Harlan.[56] With Vinson, who became Chief Justice, Frankfurter feigned deference, though he sought influence.[57]

Justice Frankfurter was in his time the leader of the conservative faction of the Supreme Court; he would for many years feud with liberals like Justices Black and Douglas.[39] He often complained that they "started with a result" and that their work was "shoddy," "result-oriented," and "demagogic".[57] Similarly, Frankfurter panned the work of Chief Justice Earl Warren as "dishonest nonsense."[58]

Frankfurter saw justices with ideas different from his own as part of a more liberal "Axis" - these opponents were chiefly Justices Black and Douglas, but would also include Murphy and Rutledge; the group would for years oppose Frankfurter's judicially-restrained ideology.[59] Douglas, Murphy, and then Rutledge were the first justices to agree with Hugo Black's notion that the Fourteenth Amendment incorporated the Bill of Rights protection into it; this view would later mostly become law, during the period of the Warren Court.[60] For his part, Frankfurter would assert that Black's incorporation theory would usurp state control over criminal justice by limiting states' development of new interpretations of criminal due process.[61]

Frankfurter's argumentative style was not popular among his Supreme Court colleagues. "All Frankfurter does is talk, talk, talk," Justice Earl Warren complained. "He drives you crazy."[33][62] Hugo Black reported that "I thought Felix was going to hit me today, he got so mad."[33] In the Court's biweekly conference sessions, traditionally a period for vote-counting, Frankfurter had the habit of lecturing his colleagues for forty-five minutes at a time or more with his book resting on a podium. Frankfurter's ideological opponents would leave the room or read their mail while he lectured.[63]

Frankfurter was close friends with Justice Robert H. Jackson.[64] The two exchanged much correspondence over their mutual dislike for Justice William O. Douglas.[64] Frankfurter also had a strong influence over Jackson's opinions.[65]

Frankfurter was universally praised for his work before coming to the Supreme Court, and was expected to influence it for decades past the death of FDR.[66] However, Frankfurter's influence over justices was limited by his failure to adapt to new surroundings, his style of personal relations (relying heavily on the use of flattery and ingratiation, which ultimately proved divisive), and his strict adherence to the ideology of judicial restraint. Michael E. Parrish, professor at UCSD, said of Frankfurter: "History has not been kind to [him]... there is now almost a universal consensus that Frankfurter the justice was a failure, a judge who... became 'uncoupled from the locomotive of history' during the Second World War, and who thereafter left little in the way of an enduring jurisprudential legacy."[67]


Frankfurter published several books including Cases Under the Interstate Commerce Act; The Business of the Supreme Court (1927); Justice Holmes and the Supreme Court (1938); The Case of Sacco and Vanzetti (1927) and Felix Frankfurter Reminisces (1960).

Retirement, death and legacy

Frankfurter retired in 1962 after suffering a stroke and was succeeded by Arthur Goldberg. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963.

Felix Frankfurter died from congestive heart failure at the age of 82. His remains are interred in the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[68]

There are two extensive collections of Frankfurter's papers: one at the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress and the other at Harvard University. Both are fully open for research and have been distributed to other libraries on microfilm. A chapter of the international youth-led fraternal organization for Jewish teenagers Aleph Zadik Aleph in Scottsdale, AZ is named in his honor.

See also


  1. ^ Federal Judicial Center: Felix Frankfurter, 2009-12-12,, retrieved 2009-12-12 
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Slater, Elinor; Slater, Robert (1996), Great Jewish Men, Jonathan David Company, Inc, pp. 112–115, ISBN 9780824603816,,M1 
  4. ^ a b Murphy 2003, p. 264
  5. ^ Alexander 2001, p. 77
  6. ^ Supreme Court Justices Who Are Phi Beta Kappa Members, Phi Beta Kappa website, accessed Oct 4, 2009
  7. ^ Alexander 2001, pp. 77–8
  8. ^ Murphy 2003, pp. 264–65
  9. ^ Gunther 1994, pp. 221–22
  10. ^ Alexander 2001, p. 82
  11. ^ a b Alexander 2001, p. 83-4
  12. ^ Carrington 1999, p. 132
  13. ^ Gunther 1994, p. 244
  14. ^ Gunther 1994, p. 253
  15. ^ Irons 1999, p. 267
  16. ^ a b Alexander 2001, p. 84-7
  17. ^ Gunther 1994, p. 353-4
  18. ^ a b c d e Murphy 2003, p. 265
  19. ^ Gunther 1994, p. 261
  20. ^ Time Magazine, June 20, 1938
  21. ^ Polenberg, Richard (2007), "Introduction", The Letters of Sacco and Vanzetti, Penguin Classics, xxi, ISBN 9780143105077, 
  22. ^ Gunther 1994, p. 358
  23. ^ Irons 1999, p. 283
  24. ^ Stone 2004, p. 225-26
  25. ^ Morris, Norval; David J. Rothman (1995), The Oxford History of the Prison: The Practice of Punishment in Western Society, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 358, ISBN 9780195118148 
  26. ^ Gunther 1994, pp. 362–65
  27. ^ Rogers, Alan (2008), Murder and the Death Penalty in Massachusetts, University of Massachusetts Press, pp. 187–94, ISBN 9781558496330, 
  28. ^ a b Gunther 1994, p. 437
  29. ^ a b c Murphy 2003, p. 266
  30. ^ Berlin, Isaiah (2001), "Felix Frankfurter at Oxford", in Hardy, Henry, Personal Impressions, Princeton University Press, pp. 112–19, ISBN 978-0-691-08858-7,,M1 
  31. ^ Irons 1999, pp. 327–8
  32. ^ [1]
  33. ^ a b c Irons 1999, p. 328
  34. ^ Eisler 1993, p. 121
  35. ^ Eisler 1993, pp. 161–162
  36. ^ Irons 1999, pp. 338–341
  37. ^ Irons 1999, pp. 344–345
  38. ^ White, James Boyd (2006), Living Speech: Resisting the Empire of Force, Princeton University Press, pp. 45–47, ISBN 9780691125800,,M1 
  39. ^ a b c Eisler 1993, p. 11
  40. ^ Carrington 1999, p. 142-43
  41. ^ Eisler 1993, p. 12
  42. ^ Stone 2004, p. 402-10
  43. ^ Michael Lariens on Fred Vinson.
  44. ^ a b Woodward and Armstrong 1979, p. 38
  45. ^ Woodward and Armstrong 1979, pp. 37–38
  46. ^ Woodward and Armstrong 1979, p. 55
  47. ^ Eisler 1993, p. 128
  48. ^ The Supreme Court Under Earl Warren, 1953-1969. By Michal R. Belknap, Earl Warren. Page 95. University of South Carolina Press.
  49. ^ Eisler 1993, p. 129
  50. ^ Dworkin 1996, p. 340
  51. ^ Greenhouse, Linda (August 30, 2006), "Supreme Court Memo; Women Suddenly Scarce Among Justices' Clerks", The New York Times,, retrieved 2008-11-28 
  52. ^ Eisler 1993, pp. 88, 100, 105
  53. ^ Eisler 1993, p. 100
  54. ^ Eisler 1993, p. 106
  55. ^ Eisler 1993, p. 102
  56. ^ Hirsch 1981, p. 188
  57. ^ a b Hirsch 1981, pp. 189–90
  58. ^ Hirsch 1981, p. 190
  59. ^ Ball 2006, p. 14
  60. ^ Ball 2006, pp. 212–213
  61. ^ Ball 2006, p. 213
  62. ^ Parrish 1996, p. 52
  63. ^ Ball, Howard. Hugo L. Black: Cold Steel Warrior. Oxford University Press. 2006. ISBN 0-19-507814-4. Page 140.
  64. ^ a b Hirsch 1981, p. 187
  65. ^ Hirsch 1981, pp. 187–88
  66. ^ Wrightsman, Lawrence S.; La Mort, Justin R. (Fall 2005), "Why Do Supreme Court Justices Succeed or Fail? Harry Blackmun as an Example", Missouri Law Review 70 (4): 1261–87, 
  67. ^ Ball, Howard. Hugo L. Black: Cold Steel Warrior. Oxford University Press. 2006. ISBN 0-19-507814-4. Page 137.
  68. ^ Felix Frankfurter memorial at Find a Grave. See also, Christensen, George A. (1983) Here Lies the Supreme Court: Gravesites of the Justices, Yearbook. Supreme Court Historical Society. Christensen, George A., Here Lies the Supreme Court: Revisited, Journal of Supreme Court History, Volume 33 Issue 1, Pages 17 - 41 (19 Feb 2008), University of Alabama.

Further reading

  • Abraham, Henry J., Justices and Presidents: A Political History of Appointments to the Supreme Court. 3d. ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992). ISBN 0-19-506557-3.
  • Alexander, Michael (2001), Jazz Age Jews, Princeton University Press, ISBN 9780691116532 .
  • Ball, Howard (2006), Hugo Black: Cold Steel Warrior, New York: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-507814-4 .
  • Cushman, Clare, The Supreme Court Justices: Illustrated Biographies,1789-1995 (2nd ed.) (Supreme Court Historical Society), (Congressional Quarterly Books, 2001) ISBN 1568021267; ISBN 9781568021263.
  • Carrington, Paul (1999), Stewards of Democracy: Law as Public Profession, New York: Basic Books, ISBN 978-0813368320 .
  • Dworkin, Ronald (1996), Freedom's Law: The Moral Reading of the American Constitution, Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0198264705 .
  • Eisler, Kim Isaac (1993), A Justice for All: William J. Brennan, Jr., and the decisions that transformed America, New York: Simon & Schuster, ISBN 0671767879 .
  • Frank, John P. (2006), Leon Friedman and Fred L. Israel, ed., The Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions, Chelsea House Publishers, ISBN 978-0791013779 .
  • Frankfurter, Felix, Mr. Justice Cardozo and Public Law, Columbia Law Review 39 (1939): 88–118, Harvard Law Review 52 (1939): 440–470, Yale Law Journal 48 (1939): 458–488.
  • Gunther, Gerald (1994), Learned Hand: The Man and the Judge, New York: Knopf, ISBN 978-0394588070 .
  • Hirsh, H.N. (1981), The Enigma of Felix Frankfurter, New York: Basic Books, ISBN 978-0465019793 .
  • Irons, Peter (1999), A People's History of the Supreme Court, New York: Viking Penguin, ISBN 978-0670870066 .
  • Hockett, Jeffry D (1996), New Deal Justice: The Constitutional Jurisprudence of Hugo L. Black, Felix Frankfurter, and Robert H. Jackson, Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, ISBN 0847682102 .
  • Kennedy, David M. (2001), Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945, Oxford University Press US, ISBN 9780195038347 .
  • Maguire, Peter H. (2000), Law and War: An American Story, Columbia University Press, ISBN 9780231120500 .
  • Martin, Fenton S. and Goehlert, Robert U., The U.S. Supreme Court: A Bibliography, (Congressional Quarterly Books, 1990). ISBN 0871875543.
  • Parrish, Michael H. (1996), "Felix Frankfurter, the Progressive Tradition and the Warren Court", The Warren Court: In Historical and Political Perspective, University of Virginia Press, ISBN 9780813916651 .
  • Murphy, Bruce Allen; Owens, Arthur (2003), Vile, John R., ed., Great American Judges: An Encyclopedia, 1, Santa Barbara: ABC–CLIO, ISBN 978-1576079898 .
  • Pritchett, C. Herman, Civil Liberties and the Vinson Court (The University of Chicago Press, 1969) ISBN 9780226684437; ISBN 0226684431.
  • Stone, Geoffrey R. (2004), Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime From the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism, New York: Norton, ISBN 978-0393058802 .
  • Urofsky, Melvin I., Conflict Among the Brethren: Felix Frankfurter, William O. Douglas and the Clash of Personalities and Philosophies on the United States Supreme Court, Duke Law Journal (1988): 71-113.
  • Urofsky, Melvin I., Division and Discord: The Supreme Court under Stone and Vinson, 1941-1953 (University of South Carolina Press, 1997) ISBN 1570031207.
  • Urofsky, Melvin I., The Supreme Court Justices: A Biographical Dictionary (New York: Garland Publishing 1994). 590 pp. ISBN 0815311761; ISBN 978-0815311768.
  • White, G. Edward (2007), The American Judicial Tradition: Profiles of Leading American Judges (3rd ed.), Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0195139624 .
  • Woodward, Bob; Armstrong, Scott (1979), The Brethren: inside the Supreme Court, New York: Simon and Schuster, ISBN 0-671-24110-9 .

External links

  • September 27, 2006 Epoch Times Editorial on Harry Wu (quotation referring to Jan Karski and Felix Frankfurter: When Jan Karski disclosed the message of Nazis' slaughtering of the Jews, the U.S. Supreme Court judge Felix Frankfurter's response to a Polish diplomat was, "Mr. Ambassador, I did not say this young man is lying. I said I am unable to believe him. There is a difference.")
Legal offices
Preceded by
Benjamin N. Cardozo
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
January 20, 1939–August 28, 1962
Succeeded by
Arthur Goldberg


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Judicial judgment must take deep account...of the day before yesterday in order that yesterday may not paralyze today.

Felix Frankfurter (November 15, 1882February 22, 1965) was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.


  • In this Court dissents have gradually become majority opinions.
    • Graves v. New York ex rel. O'Keefe, 306 U.S. 446 (1939)
  • It must never be forgotten, however, that the Bill of Rights was the child of the Enlightenment. Back of the guarantee of free speech lay faith in the power of an appeal to reason by all the peaceful means for gaining access to the mind. It was in order to avert force and explosions due to restrictions upon rational modes of communication that the guarantee of free speech was given a generous scope. But utterance in a context of violence can lose its significance as an appeal to reason and become part of an instrument of force. Such utterance was not meant to be sheltered by the Constitution.
    • Milk Wagon Drivers Union of Chicago, Local 753. v. Meadowmoor Dairies, Inc., 312 U.S. 287, 293 (1941).
  • No court can make time stand still.
    • Scripps-Howard Radio, Inc. v. FCC, 316 U.S. 4, 9 (1942).
  • A phrase begins life as a literary expression; its felicity leads to its lazy repetition; and repetition soon establishes it as a legal formula, undiscriminatingly used to express different and sometimes contradictory ideas.
    • Tiller v. Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Co., 318 U.S. 54, 68 (1943) (concurring).
  • If one man can be allowed to determine for himself what is law, every man can. That means first chaos, then tyranny. Legal process is an essential part of the democratic process.
    • United States v. Mine Workers, 330 U.S. 312 (1946)
  • Wisdom too often never comes, and so one ought not to reject it merely because it comes late.
    • Henslee v. Union Planters Bank, 335 U.S. 600 (1948)
  • The indispensible judicial requisite is intellectual humility.
    • AFL v. American Sash & Door Co., 335 U.S. 538 (1949)
  • It is a wise man who said that there is no greater inequality than the equal treatment of unequals.
    • Dennis v. United States, 339 U.S. 184 (1949)
  • The words of the Constitution ... are so unrestricted by their intrinsic meaning or by their history or by tradition or by prior decisions that they leave the individual Justice free, if indeed they do not compel him, to gather meaning not from reading the Constitution but from reading life.
    • The Supreme Court, vol. 3, no. 1, Parliamentary Affairs (London, Winter 1949)
  • [It is anomalous] to hold that in order to convict a man the police cannot extract by force what is in his mind, but can extract what is in his stomach.
    • Unanimous opinion that reversed conviction of an alleged drug addict because evidence was obtained by forced stomach pumping (January 2, 1952)
  • Freedom of the press is not an end in itself but a means to the end of [achieving] a free society.
    • New York Times (November 28, 1954)
  • Lincoln’s appeal to “the better angels of our nature” failed to avert a fratricidal war. But the compassionate wisdom of Lincoln’s first and second inaugurals bequeathed to the Union, cemented with blood, a moral heritage which, when drawn upon in times of stress and strife, is sure to find specific ways and means to surmount difficulties that may appear to be insurmountable.
    • Concurring opinion in unanimous ruling that ordered racial desegregation of schools in Little Rock, AR (September 29, 1958)
  • Time and experience have forcefully taught that the power to inspect dwelling places, either as a matter of systematic area-by-area search or, as here, to treat a specific problem, is of indispensable importance in the maintenance of community health; a power that would be greatly hobbled by the blanket requirement of the safeguards necessary for a search of evidence of criminal acts.
    • Majority opinion in 5-4 ruling that allowed health inspectors to enter a private home without a search warrant (May 4, 1959)
  • [C]onvictions following the admission into evidence of confessions which are involuntary, i.e., the product of coercion, either physical or psychological, cannot stand. This is so not because such confessions are unlikely to be true but because the methods used to extract them offend an underlying principle in the enforcement of our criminal law: that ours is an accusatorial and not an inquisitorial system—a system in which the State must establish guilt by evidence independently and freely secured and may not by coercion prove its charges against an accused out of his own mouth.
    • Rogers v. Richmond, 365 U.S. 534, 540-41 (1961).
  • The mode by which the inevitable is reached is effort.
    • Quoted by Garson Kanin in Atlantic (March 1964)
  • I came into the world a Jew, and although I did not live my life entirely as a Jew, I think it is fitting that I should leave as a Jew. I don’t want to … turn my back on a great and noble heritage.
    • Quoted by Garson Kanin in Atlantic (March 1964)
  • All our work, our whole life is a matter of semantics, because words are the tools with which we work, the material out of which laws are made, out of which the Constitution was written. Everything depends on our understanding of them.
    • Reply to counsel who said a challenge from the bench was “just a matter of semantics,” Reader’s Digest (June 1964)
  • Litigation is the pursuit of practical ends, not a game of chess.
    • News summaries (August 9, 1964)
  • As a member of this court I am not justified in writing my private notions of policy into the Constitution, no matter how deeply I may cherish them or how mischievous I may deem their disregard.
    • News summaries (August 9, 1964)
  • Judicial judgment must take deep account...of the day before yesterday in order that yesterday may not paralyze today.
    • Quoted in National Observer (Silver Spring, Maryland, March 1, 1965)

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