Felix Frankfurter


American Jurist, Teacher, Supreme Court Justice

Author Quotes

One is entitled to say without qualification that the correlation between prior judicial experience and fitness for the Supreme Court is zero.

Gratitude is one of the least articulate of the emotions, especially when it is deep. I can express with very limited adequacy the passionate devotion to this land that possesses millions of our people, born, like myself, under other skies, for the privilege that that this county has bestowed in allowing them to partake of its fellowship.

It is simply not true that war never settles anything.

Ours is an accusatorial and not an inquisitorial system – a system in which the state must establish guilt by evidence independently and freely secured and may not by coercion prove its charge against an accused out of his own mouth.

Holmes said Emerson had a beautiful voice, and, of course, Holmes had one of the most beautiful voices the Lord ever put into a throat.

It is true of opinions as of other compositions that those who are seeped in them, whose ears are sensitive to literary nuances, whose antennae record subtle silences, can gather from their contents meaning beyond the words. All this presupposes, of course, a grasp of the nature of the Supreme Court's functions — the scope and limits of its constitutional authority — and often, as well, familiarity with the record and briefs of a particular case whose opinion record and briefs of a particular case whose opinion is under scrutiny.

The [Fifteenth] Amendment nullifies sophisticated as well as simple-minded modes of discrimination.

I came into the world a Jew, and although I did not live my life entirely as a Jew, I think it is fitting that I should leave as a Jew. I don't want to turn my back on a great and noble heritage.

It was a wise man who said that there is no greater inequality than the equal treatment of unequals.

The course of decision in this Court has thus far jealously enforced the principle of a free society secured by the prohibition of unreasonable searches and seizures. Its safeguards are not to be worn away by a process of devitalizing interpretation.

A court which yields to the popular will thereby licenses itself to practice despotism, for there can be no assurance that it will not on another occasion indulge its own will.

I don't like a man to be too efficient. He's likely to be not human enough.

It would be a narrow conception of jurisprudence to confine the notion of 'laws' to what is found written on the statute books, and to disregard the gloss which life has written upon it.

The Court's authority - possessed of neither the purse nor the sword -ultimately rests on substantial public confidence in its moral sanctions.

A license cannot be revoked because a man is redheaded or because he was divorced, except for a calling, if such there be, for which redheadedness or an unbroken marriage may have some rational bearing. If a State licensing agency lays bare its arbitrary action, or if the State law explicitly allows it to act arbitrarily, that is precisely the kind of State action which the Due Process Clause forbids.

I know of no title that I deem more honorable than that of Professor of the Harvard Law School.

Judgment must take account of what it decrees for today in order that today may not paralyze tomorrow.

After all, advocates, including advocates for States, are like managers of pugilistic and election contestants, in that they have a propensity for claiming everything.

If one starts with the assumption that, in the absence of specific Congressional authority, a fixed rule of law precludes contracting officers from providing in a Government contract terms reasonably calculated to assure its performance even though there be no money loss through a particular default, there is no problem. But answers are not obtained by putting the wrong question and thereby begging the real one.

Judicial judgment must take deep account ... of the day before yesterday in order that yesterday may not paralyze today.

After all, this is the Nation's ultimate judicial tribunal, nor a super-legal-aid bureau.

If the function of this Court is to be essentially no different from that of a legislature, if the considerations governing constitutional construction are to be substantially those that underlie legislation, then indeed judges should not have life.

Lawyers better remember they are human beings, and a human being who hasn't his periods of doubts and distresses and disappointments must be a cabbage, not a human being. That is number one.

Appeal must be to an informed, civically militant electorate.

In any event, mere speed is not a test of justice. Deliberate speed is. Deliberate speed takes time. But it is time well spent.

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American Jurist, Teacher, Supreme Court Justice