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 
Clerk Law Schoolsort icon Terms Clerked
Mary L. Mikva Northwestern (1980) 1981
John M. West Michigan (1987) 1988
Marie R. Deveney Michigan (1984) 1985
Robert M. Weinberg Michigan (1968) 1968
Stanley C. Fickle Indiana (1974) 1975
Julius Genachowski Harvard (1991) 1992
Jonathan S. Massey Harvard (1988) 1989
Einer R. Elhauge Harvard (1986) 1987
James A. Feldman Harvard (1983) 1984
Jeffrey T. Leeds Harvard (1983) 1985
John F. Savarese Harvard (1981) 1983
Jeffrey B. Kindler Harvard (1980) 1983
Jerold S. Kayden Harvard (1979) 1980
Michael B. Chertoff Harvard (1978) 1979
Jeffrey J. Rosen Harvard (1978) 1979

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Cite this Page
William J. Brennan, Jr.. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 29 June 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/justices/william_j_brennan_jr?page=2&order=field_education_value&sort=desc>.
William J. Brennan, Jr., The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/justices/william_j_brennan_jr?page=2&order=field_education_value&sort=desc (last visited June 29, 2014).
"William J. Brennan, Jr.," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed June 29, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/justices/william_j_brennan_jr?page=2&order=field_education_value&sort=desc.