Felix Frankfurter


American Jurist, Teacher, Supreme Court Justice

Author Quotes

While it is not always profitable to analogize "fact" to "fiction," La Fontaine's fable of the crow, the cheese, and the fox demonstrates that there is a substantial difference between holding a piece of cheese in the beak and putting it in the stomach.

Without a free press there can be no free society. That is axiomatic. However, freedom of the press is not an end in itself but a means to the end of a free society. The scope and nature of the constitutional guarantee of the freedom of the press are to be viewed and applied in that light.

The liberty of man to search for truth ought not to be fettered, no matter what orthodoxies he may challenge.

The line must follow some direction of policy, whether rooted in logic or experience. Lines should not be drawn simply for the sake of drawing lines.

The real rulers in Washington are invisible and exercise power from behind the scenes.

The requirement of “due process” is not a fair-weather or timid assurance. It must be respected in periods of calm and in times of trouble; it protects aliens as well as citizens.

The ultimate touchstone of constitutionality is the Constitution itself and not what we have said about it.

Time and experience have forcefully taught that the power to inspect dwelling places, either as a matter of systematic area-by-area search or, as here, to treat a specific problem, is of indispensable importance in the maintenance of community health; a power that would be greatly hobbled by the blanket requirement of the safeguards necessary for a search of evidence of criminal acts.

To be effective, judicial administration must not be leaden-footed.

To pierce the curtain of the future, to give shape and visage to mysteries still in the womb of time, is the gift of the imagination. It requires poetic sensibilities with which judges are rarely endowed and which their education does not normally develop.

To some lawyers, all facts are created equal

We forget that the most successful statesmen have been professionals. Lincoln was a professional politician.

We have enjoyed so much freedom for so long that we are perhaps in danger of forgetting how much blood it cost to establish the Bill of Rights.

What becomes decisive to a Justice's functioning on the Court in the large area within which his individuality moves is his general attitude toward law, the habits of the mind that he has formed or is capable of unforming, his capacity for detachment, his temperament or training for putting his passion behind his judgment instead of in front of it. The attitudes and qualities which I am groping to characterize are ingredients of what compendiously might be called dominating humility.

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.

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American Jurist, Teacher, Supreme Court Justice