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.

I do take law very seriously, deeply seriously, because fragile as reason is and limited as law is as the institutionalized medium of reason, that's all we have standing between us and the tyranny of mere will and the cruelty of unbridled, undisciplined feeling.

Morals are three-quarters manners.

The words of the Constitution ... are so unrestricted by their intrinsic meaning or by their history or by tradition or by prior decisions that they leave the individual Justice free, if indeed they do not compel him, to gather meaning not from reading the Constitution but from reading life.

In a democratic society like ours, relief must come through an aroused popular conscience that sears the conscience of the people's representatives.

Convictions following the admission into evidence of confessions which are involuntary, i.e., the product of coercion, either physical or psychological, cannot stand. This is so not because such confessions are unlikely to be true but because the methods used to extract them offend an underlying principle in the enforcement of our criminal law: that 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 charges against an accused out of his own mouth.

Congress is, after all, not a body of laymen unfamiliar with the commonplaces of our law. This legislation was the formulation of the two Judiciary Committees, all of whom are lawyers, and the Congress is predominately a lawyers' body.

There is torture of mind as well as body; the will is as much affected by fear as by force. And there comes a point where this Court should not be ignorant as judges of what we know as men.

Ambiguity lurks in generality and may thus become an instrument of severity.

The indispensible judicial requisite is intellectual humility.

The Procrustean bed is not a symbol of equality. It is no less inequality to have equality among unequals.

If one man can be allowed to determine for himself what is law, every man can. That means first chaos, then tyranny. Legal process is an essential part of the democratic process.

One who belongs to the most vilified and persecuted minority in history is not likely to be insensible to the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution... But as judges we are neither Jew nor Gentile, neither Catholic nor agnostic.

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

American Jurist, Teacher, Supreme Court Justice