Felix Frankfurter

Media Items
Personal Information
Wednesday, November 15, 1882
Monday, February 22, 1965
Childhood Location 
Childhood Surroundings 
Leopold Frankfurter
Father's Occupation 
Emma Winter
Family Status 
Associate Justice
Nominated By 
Roosevelt, F.
Commissioned on 
Friday, January 20, 1939
Sworn In 
Monday, January 30, 1939
Left Office 
Tuesday, August 28, 1962
Reason For Leaving 
Length of Service 
23 years, 6 months, 29 days
Felix Frankfurter
The Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States (Artist: Gardener Cox)

Felix Frankfurter was born in Vienna, Austria. He emigrated with his parents in 1894 and grew up amidst teeming tenements on New York's lower east side. He attended City College and established an impressive record at Harvard Law School. He had a brief tour in private legal practice but soon entered into government service, beginning with the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan. Frankfurter followed the incumbent U.S. Attorney, Henry Stimson, back into private practice and then back to government, this time as Stimpson held the position of Secretary of War under President Taft.

Frankfurter left government service to accept a position on the faculty of Harvard Law School where he remained, more or less, until his appointment to the Supreme Court in 1938. Frankfurter earned a reputation as an expert in constitutional law and federal jurisdiction. But he was no academic recluse. He argued cases for the National Consumers League, maintained an active interest in Zionist causes, and helped to found The New Republic. Frankfurter was also a highly visible defender of Sacco and Vanzetti, who were anarchists accused of bank robbery and murder in Braintree, Massachusetts.

Frankfurter was a confidant of Justices Louis Brandeis and Oliver Wendell Holmes. Frankfurter would regularly scout out law clerks for these justices from among his minions at Harvard Law School. Frankfurter was also an adviser to Franklin D. Roosevelt and sent many of his students to work in the New Deal.

Frankfurter was a prolific writer on and off the Court. He wrote often even when he was not the Court's main voice. He was an epistolarian in an age where letter-writing was on the wane. He had a brisk and energetic style to all that he did. To this day, his opinions stand out in relation to his colleagues' colorless prose.

Clerksort icon Law School Terms Clerked
Jerome A. Cohen Yale (1955) 1956
John D. French Harvard (1960) 1960
Joseph L. Rauh, Jr. Harvard (1935)
Louis Henkin Harvard (1940) 1946
Paul Bender Harvard (1957) 1959
Philip Elman Harvard (1939) 1941, 1942
Philip Kurland Harvard (1944) 1945
Philip L. Graham Harvard (1939) 1940
Richard N. Goodwin Harvard (1958) 1958
Stanley M. Silverberg 1943
Vincent L. McKusick Harvard (1950) 1951
William Thaddeus Coleman Harvard (1946) 1948

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Felix Frankfurter. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 30 March 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/justices/felix_frankfurter?page=1&order=title&sort=asc>.
Felix Frankfurter, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/justices/felix_frankfurter?page=1&order=title&sort=asc (last visited March 30, 2015).
"Felix Frankfurter," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed March 30, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/justices/felix_frankfurter?page=1&order=title&sort=asc.