Louis D. Brandeis

Media Items
Personal Information
Thursday, November 13, 1856
Sunday, October 5, 1941
Childhood Location 
Childhood Surroundings 
Associate Justice
Nominated By 
Commissioned on 
Thursday, June 1, 1916
Sworn In 
Monday, June 5, 1916
Left Office 
Monday, February 13, 1939
Reason For Leaving 
Length of Service 
22 years, 8 months, 8 days
Louis D. Brandeis
The Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States (Artist: Eben F. Comins)

Louis Dembitz Brandeis was the son of Jewish immigrants. He was born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky where his father was a successful grain merchant. Brandeis entered Harvard Law School when he was eighteen and earned the highest average in the law school's history, graduating in 1877.

Brandeis came to the Supreme Court with extraordinary credentials as a lawyer and public figure. He proved to be an equally extraordinary justice by employing the skills that made him renowned as an attorney: he mastered procedural details, researched the facts and the law, and went to great lengths to fashion opinions that were clear and logical.

For Brandeis, law was a device to shape social, economic, and political affairs. Law had to operate on the basis of two key assumptions: that the individual was the basic force in society and that the individual had limited capabilities. Brandeis did not seek to coddle the individual; rather, he sought to stretch individual potential to its limit.

It is difficult to isolate a single opinion among the hundreds that Brandeis wrote. Whatever the choice, some student will surely take exception. However, the opinion with the greatest impact on the law must be the federalism case of Erie v. Tompkins, one of the last opinions Brandeis wrote.

Clerksort icon Law School Terms Clerked
Paul A. Freund Harvard (1932) 1932
Nathaniel L. Nathanson Harvard (1933) 1934
James Willard Hurst Harvard (1935) 1935, 1936
James M. Landis Harvard 1925
Henry J. Friendly Harvard (1927) 1927
Harry Shulman 1929, 1930, 1931, 1932, 1933
H. Thomas Austern Harvard (1929) 1930
Dean G. Acheson Harvard (1918) 1919
David Riesman Harvard (1934) 1935
Calvert Magruder Harvard (1916)
Adrian S. Fisher Harvard (1937) 1938

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Louis D. Brandeis. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 28 August 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/justices/louis_d_brandeis?order=title&sort=desc>.
Louis D. Brandeis, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/justices/louis_d_brandeis?order=title&sort=desc (last visited August 28, 2015).
"Louis D. Brandeis," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 28, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/justices/louis_d_brandeis?order=title&sort=desc.