American Justice U.S. Supreme Court
Louis D. Brandeis, fully Louis Dembitz Brandeis
American Justice U.S. Supreme Court
Decency, security, and liberty alike demand that government officials shall be subjected to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen. In a government of laws, existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. To declare that in the administration of the criminal law the end justifies the means -- to declare that the government may commit crimes in order to secure the conviction of a private criminal -- would bring terrible retribution. Against that pernicious doctrine this court should resolutely set its face.
Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government's purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.
The makers of our Constitution undertook to secure conditions favorable to the pursuit of happiness. They recognized the significance of man's spiritual nature, of his feelings and of his intellect. They knew that only a part of the pain, pleasure and satisfactions of life are to be found in material things. They sought to protect Americans in their beliefs, their thoughts, their emotions and their sensations. They conferred, as against the government, the right to be let alone -- the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men.
The general rule of law is, that the noblest of human productions -- knowledge, truths ascertained, conceptions, and ideas -- become, after voluntary communication to others, free as the air to common use.
What are the American ideals? They are the development of the individual for his own and the common good; the development of the individual through liberty, and the attainment of the common good through democracy and social justice.
No people ever did or ever can attain a worthy civilization by the satisfaction merely of material needs.
When a man feels that he cannot leave his work, it is a sure sign of an impending collapse.
The intensity and complexity of life, attendant upon advancing civilization, have rendered necessary some retreat from the world.
Few laws are of universal application. It is of the nature of our law that it has dealt not with man in general, but with him in relationships.
Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government's purposes are beneficent.
In the frank expression of conflicting opinions lies the greatest promise of wisdom in governmental action.
Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.
The right to be alone, the most comprehensive of rights, and the right most valued by civilized man.
The most important political office is that of the private citizen.
We are not won by arguments that we can analyze, but by tone and temper; by the manner, which is the man himself.
To declare that in the administration of criminal law the end justifies the means to declare that the Government may commit crimes in order to secure conviction of a private criminal would bring terrible retribution.
There are no shortcuts in evolution.
The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in the insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding.
Our government... teaches the whole people by its example. If the government becomes the lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy.
If we would guide by the light of reason we must let our minds be bold.
If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable.