Felix Frankfurter

Felix
Frankfurter
1882
1965

American Jurist, Teacher, Supreme Court Justice

Author Quotes

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?

National unity is the basis of national security. To deny the legislature the right to select appropriate means for its attainment presents a totally different order of problem from that of the propriety of subordinating the possible ugliness of littered streets to the free expression opinion through handbills.

Fragile as reason is and limited as law is as the institutionalized medium of reason, that's all we have between us and the tyranny of mere will and the cruelty of unbridled, undisciplined feelings.

It has not been unknown that judges persist in error to avoid giving the appearance of weakness and vacillation.

No court can make time stand still.

Freedom of expression is the well-spring of our civilization... The history of civilization is in considerable measure the displacement of error which once held sway as official truth by beliefs which in turn have yielded to other truths. Therefore the liberty of man to search for truth ought not to be fettered, no matter what orthodoxies he may challenge.

It is a fair summary of history to say that the safeguards of liberty have been forged in controversies involving not very nice people.

No judge writes on a wholly clean slate.

Future lawyers should be more aware that law is not a system of abstract logic, but the web of arrangements, rooted in history but also in hopes, for promoting to a maximum the full use of a nation's resources and talents.

It is anomalous to hold that in order to convict a man the police cannot extract by force what is in his mind, but can extract what is in his stomach.

Of compelling consideration is the fact that words acquire scope and function from the history of events which they summarize.

Government is itself an art, one of the subtlest of arts.

It is not only under Nazi rule that police excesses are inimical to freedom. It is easy to make light of insistence on scrupulous regard for the safeguards of civil liberties when invoked on behalf of the unworthy. It is too easy. History bears testimony that by such disregard are the rights of liberty extinguished, heedlessly at first, then stealthily, and brazenly in the end.

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

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

American Jurist, Teacher, Supreme Court Justice