Quick Click … From the William Davidson Digital Archive, June 16, 2016
One hundred years ago this month, one of the most famous jurists in American history was appointed to Supreme Court of the United States: Louis Brandeis. Already a famous progressive attorney who had been dubbed “The People’s Lawyer,” Brandeis went on to have a storied career on the Supreme Court, one of the most influential justices ever.
On one hand, the appointment of Brandeis was nothing out of the ordinary. Brandeis was a brilliant lawyer who was recognized as such by a president. He was one of many accomplished and highly intelligent members of the Supreme Court (of course, there have been a few not-so-intelligent and infamous members over the years). On the other hand, this was an unprecedented event because Brandeis was the first Jewish appointee.
There were some political battles regarding his nomination. Some observers, like the Detroit Journal, speculated that President Woodrow Wilson nominated Brandeis to secure the Jewish vote for him and his political party. There is a thoughtful essay in the June 16, 1916, issue of the Jewish Chronicle on this issue. That week, the paper featured a photo of Brandeis on its front page and a brief essay about his appointment on page 4. This is very modest reporting about a man beginning a larger-than-life career.
By Mike Smith, DJN Foundation Archivist
Want to learn more? Go to the DJN Foundation archives, available for free at www.djnfoundation.org.