Felix Frankfurter

Felix
Frankfurter
1882
1965

American Jurist, Teacher, Supreme Court Justice

Author Quotes

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.

Liberty of thought soon shrivels without freedom of expression. Nor can truth be pursued in an atmosphere hostile to the endeavor or under dangers which are hazarded only by heroes.

As a member of this court I am not justified in writing my private notions of policy into the Constitution, no matter how deeply I may cherish them or how mischievous I may deem their disregard.

In law also the emphasis makes the song.

Lincoln's appeal to "the better angels of our nature" failed to avert a fratricidal war. But the compassionate wisdom of Lincoln's first and second inaugurals bequeathed to the Union, cemented with blood, a moral heritage which, when drawn upon in times of stress and strife, is sure to find specific ways and means to surmount difficulties that may appear to be insurmountable.

Decisions of this Court do not have intrinsic authority.

In the first place, 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.

Litigation is the pursuit of practical ends, not a game of chess.

Emerson said to him, "Young man, have you read Plato?" Holmes said he hadn't. "You must. You must read Plato. But you must hold him at arm's length and say, 'Plato, you have delighted and edified mankind for two thousand years. What have you to say to me?'" Holmes said, "That's the lesson of independence." So off he went and read Plato for a few moths or a year, and then wrote a piece doing in Mr. Plato in one of those ephemeral literary things at Harvard. He laid this, as it were, at the feet of Mr. Emerson and awaited the next morning's mail, hoping to get a warm appreciation from Emerson. And the next day and the next and the next — no sign of life. No acknowledgment from Mr. Emerson. Holmes didn't see him again for about a year. When he saw him, this, that, and the other thing was again talked about. Emerson said, "Oh, by the way, I read your piece on Plato. Holmes, when you strike at a king, you must kill him." Holmes said, "That was the second great lesson — humility."

In this Court dissents have gradually become majority opinions.

Mere speed is not a test of justice. Deliberate speed is. Deliberate speed takes time. But it is time well spent.

For the highest exercise of judicial duty is to subordinate one's personal pulls and one's private views to the law of which we are all guardians - those impersonal convictions that made a society a civilized community, and not the victims of personal rule.

Is that which was deemed to be of so fundamental a nature as to be written into the Constitution to endure for all times to be the sport of shifting winds of doctrine?

Author Picture
First Name
Felix
Last Name
Frankfurter
Birth Date
1882
Death Date
1965
Bio

American Jurist, Teacher, Supreme Court Justice