William J. Brennan, Jr.

Media Items
Personal Information
Wednesday, April 25, 1906
Thursday, July 24, 1997
Childhood Location 
New Jersey
Childhood Surroundings 
New Jersey
Roman Catholic
William J. Brennan
Father's Occupation 
Labor organizer; brewery worker
Agnes McDermott
Family Status 
Associate Justice
Nominated By 
Commissioned on 
Monday, October 15, 1956
Sworn In 
Tuesday, October 16, 1956
Left Office 
Friday, July 20, 1990
Reason For Leaving 
Length of Service 
33 years, 9 months, 4 days
New Jersey
William J. Brennan, Jr.
The Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States (artist: Paul C. Burns)

William J. Brennan, Jr. was born and raised in New Jersey. The second of eight children born to Irish immigrants, Brennan gave early evidence of academic achievement. Brennan completed his law degree at Harvard and entered private practice in his home state of New Jersey. When his practice intruded on his devotion to his family, Brennan opted for service as a trial judge. He was promoted to the state's highest court in 1952.

He was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. In a 1987 interview, Brennan recalled his first day on the Court. Later, Eisenhower would publicly admit the appointment was a mistake. That's because Brennan proved to be the most liberal and influential justice on the modern Supreme Court. He authored important opinions in the areas of free expression, criminal procedure, and reapportionment.

As a result of his leadership, Brennan imparted his constitutional vision to a broad coalition of his colleagues. He resigned on account of health in 1990.

Clerksort icon Law School Terms Clerked
Abraham D. Sofaer NYU (1965) 1966
Alan B. Sternstein Arizona (1975) 1975
Barry S. Simon Harvard (1974) 1975
Bruce R. Lerner Penn (1982) 1983
C. Taylor Ashworth Texas (1971) 1971
Carmen D. Legato Catholic (1976) 1977
Charles G. Curtis, Jr. Chicago (1982) 1984
Charles S. Treat Chicago (1980) 1982
Clifton S. Elgarten Cardozo (1979) 1981
Clyde A. Szuch Harvard (1955) 1956
Daniel A. Rezneck Harvard (1959) 1960
Daniel J. O'Hern Harvard (1957) 1957
David W. Carpenter Boston (1975) 1977
Dean M. Hashimoto Yale (1984) 1985
Dennis G. Lyons Harvard (1955) 1958, 1959

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William J. Brennan, Jr.. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 31 August 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/justices/william_j_brennan_jr?order=title&sort=asc>.
William J. Brennan, Jr., The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/justices/william_j_brennan_jr?order=title&sort=asc (last visited August 31, 2015).
"William J. Brennan, Jr.," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 31, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/justices/william_j_brennan_jr?order=title&sort=asc.