Felix Frankfurter


American Jurist, Teacher, Supreme Court Justice

Author Quotes

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.

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.

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American Jurist, Teacher, Supreme Court Justice