Felix Frankfurter

Felix
Frankfurter
1882
1965

American Jurist, Teacher, Supreme Court Justice

Author Quotes

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.

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