President Obama picked and the Senate confirmed his first and perhaps only Supreme Court appointee. If luck is with BO and the nation his appointee will be of the quality and influence of Louis D. Brandeis. If you want insight into the immediate and long-term good one lawyer/judge can achieve, you will have no better source than Melvin I. Urofsky, Louis D. Brandeis: A Life.
Before President Wilson appointed him to the Supreme Court, Brandeis had made himself “the people’s lawyer” by committing himself to progressive reform as in protecting women in the work force and in pioneering a new form of appellate brief that obligated judges to know the facts and lives involved in cases as well as the legal citations. He created savings bank life insurance in Massachusetts. He redefined the role of the lawyer as counselor and made important the role of pro bono publico work by attorneys. He fought the business dominated courts when they treated labor as a commodity, and equated a lone worker as free to contract his labor to a large factory or railroad as though they were two neighboring farmers bartering labor for corn. He was major in the creation of the Federal Reserve Act, the Clayton Antitrust Act, and the Federal Trade Commission.
In 1916 President Wilson nominated Brandeis for the Supreme Court and a six month down and dirty campaign followed fueled by business fear of losing the courts as their own playground and by cowardly anti-Semitism. Once on the court he served for twenty-three years. When he went on the Supreme Court the old classical jurisprudence controlled the decisions but that eventually gave way to a new jurisprudence of free speech, the doctrine of a constitutionally protected right to privacy, new administrative law, and the doctrine of incorporation whereby the Bill of Rights protection was extended to cover state law as well as Federal. His dissenting opinions have over time become the law of the land. He taught his brothers on the bench and the rest of the nation that the Constitution is a living document meant to change as the nation changes so that the original promises and freedoms are maintained for every citizen.
Brandeis was not an observant Jew but in response to the displacement of European Jews with the outbreak of WWI in 1914, he turned his organizing skills and national stature to the cause of Zionism. He organized American Zionism as it had never been organized before, making it a force in American politics as well as a force in Europe. When the problem of dual loyalties threatened the movement in America, Urofsky writes that Brandeis proposed, “Zionism did not require that Jews who lived in countries of freedom, such as the United States and Great Britain, make aliyah. Rather, their obligation lay in political activism and fund-raising to create a Jewish homeland in Palestine to which Jews who lived in lands of oppression, such as Russia, could find haven. While some younger Americans might want to go and be pioneers, no obligation existed for them to do so. American Jewry, however, had the responsibility for making it possible for Jews in distress to make aliyah.”
For a brief survey of his life, you can go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Brandeis If you want a good, long read then go to Urofsky’s new biography. Only a comatose person would not know that Louis D. Brandeis is honored across America but I venture that he is little understood nor appreciated for the many good things he achieved. Renew your faith in America. Salute LDB. Charles Marlin