William J. Brennan, Jr.

Media Items
Personal Information
Born 
Wednesday, April 25, 1906
Died 
Thursday, July 24, 1997
Childhood Location 
New Jersey
Childhood Surroundings 
New Jersey
Religion 
Roman Catholic
Ethnicity 
Irish
Father 
William J. Brennan
Father's Occupation 
Labor organizer; brewery worker
Mother 
Agnes McDermott
Family Status 
Middle
Position 
Associate Justice
Seat 
5
Nominated By 
Eisenhower
Commissioned on 
Monday, October 15, 1956
Sworn In 
Tuesday, October 16, 1956
Left Office 
Friday, July 20, 1990
Reason For Leaving 
Retired
Length of Service 
33 years, 9 months, 4 days
Home 
New Jersey
William J. Brennan, Jr.
The Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States (artist: Paul C. Burns)
Biography 

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.

Clerkships 
Clerksort icon Law School Terms Clerked
Jeffrey B. Kindler Harvard (1980) 1983
Jay M. Fujitani Berkeley (1984) 1985
James E. Castello Berkeley (1986) 1990
James A. Feldman Harvard (1983) 1984
Hugh W. Baxter Stanford (1990) 1991
Gerard E. Lynch Columbia (1975) 1976
Gerald M. Rosberg Harvard (1971) 1972
Gerald Goldman Harvard (1968) 1971
Geoffrey R. Stone Chicago (1971) 1972
Frederick C. Lowinger Chicago (1980) 1981
Frank I. Michelman Harvard (1960) 1961
F. Whitten Peters Harvard (1976) 1977
Evan H. Caminker Yale (1986) 1986
Elliot E. Polebaum NYU (1977) 1980
Einer R. Elhauge Harvard (1986) 1987

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Cite this Page
William J. Brennan, Jr.. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 01 October 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/justices/william_j_brennan_jr?order=title&sort=desc&page=4&=>.
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=desc&page=4&= (last visited October 1, 2014).
"William J. Brennan, Jr.," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed October 1, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/justices/william_j_brennan_jr?order=title&sort=desc&page=4&=.