Felix Frankfurter


American Jurist, Teacher, Supreme Court Justice

Author Quotes

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.

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.

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American Jurist, Teacher, Supreme Court Justice