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Louis Brandeis
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
In office
June 1, 1916 – February 13, 1939
Nominated by Woodrow Wilson
Preceded by Joseph Lamar
Succeeded by William O. Douglas
Personal details
Louis David Brandeis

(1856-11-13)November 13, 1856
Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.
Died October 5, 1941(1941-10-05) (aged 84)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Political party Republican (before 1912)
Democratic (after 1912)
Alice Goldmark (m. 1891)
Children 2
Education Harvard University (LLB)

Louis Dembitz Brandeis ( November 13, 1856 – October 5, 1941) was an American lawyer and associate justice on the Supreme Court of the United States from 1916 to 1939. He was born in Louisville, Kentucky, to Jewish immigrant parents from Bohemia (now in the Czech Republic), who raised him in a secular home. He attended Harvard Law School, graduating at the age of 20 with the highest grade point average in the law school's history. Brandeis settled in Boston, where he founded a law firm (that is still in practice today as Nutter McClennen & Fish) and became a recognized lawyer through his work on progressive social causes.

Starting in 1890, he helped develop the "right to privacy" concept by writing a Harvard Law Review article of that title, and was thereby credited by legal scholar Roscoe Pound as having accomplished "nothing less than adding a chapter to our law". He later published a book entitled Other People's Money and How the Bankers Use It, suggesting ways of curbing the power of large banks and money trusts. He fought against powerful corporations, monopolies, public corruption, and mass consumerism, all of which he felt were detrimental to American values and culture. He also became active in the Zionist movement, seeing it as a solution to antisemitism in Europe and Russia, while at the same time being a way to "revive the Jewish spirit."

When his family's finances became secure, he began devoting most of his time to public causes and was later dubbed the "People's Lawyer". He insisted on serving on cases without pay so that he would be free to address the wider issues involved. The Economist magazine calls him "A Robin Hood of the law." Among his notable early cases were actions fighting railroad monopolies, defending workplace and labor laws, helping create the Federal Reserve System, and presenting ideas for the new Federal Trade Commission. He achieved recognition by submitting a case brief, later called the "Brandeis Brief", which relied on expert testimony from people in other professions to support his case, thereby setting a new precedent in evidence presentation.

In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson nominated Brandeis to become a member of the Supreme Court. His nomination was bitterly contested, partly because, as Justice William O. Douglas later wrote, "Brandeis was a militant crusader for social justice whoever his opponent might be. He was dangerous not only because of his brilliance, his arithmetic, his courage. He was dangerous because he was incorruptible ... [and] the fears of the Establishment were greater because Brandeis was the first Jew to be named to the Court." On June 1, 1916, he was confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 47 to 22, to become one of the most famous and influential figures ever to serve on the high court. His opinions were, according to legal scholars, some of the "greatest defenses" of freedom of speech and the right to privacy ever written by a member of the Supreme Court.


Brandeis retired from the Supreme Court on February 13, 1939, and he died on October 5, 1941, following a heart attack.

The remains of both Justice Brandeis and his wife are interred beneath the portico of the Brandeis School of Law of the University of Louisville, in Louisville, Kentucky. Brandeis himself made the arrangements that made the law school one of only thirteen Supreme Court repositories in the U.S. His professional papers are archived at the library there.

Namesake institutions

  • Brandeis University, in Waltham, Massachusetts. Several awards given at the school are named in his honor. A collection of his personal papers is available at the Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections Department at Brandeis University.
  • The University of Louisville's Louis D. Brandeis School of Law. The school's principal law review publication was named the Brandeis Law Journal until it was renamed in 2007. The law school's Louis D. Brandeis Society awards the Brandeis Medal.
The Louis D. Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville opened in 1846 and was named for Justice Brandeis in 1997.
  • The Brandeis Law Journal, one of the country's few undergraduate law publications, launched in 2009.
  • The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights under Law, a civil rights organization established in Washington, D.C. to combat antisemitism in higher education.
  • Kibbutz Ein Hashofet (Hebrew: עין השופט) in Israel, founded 1937. "Ein Hashofet" means "Spring of the Judge", a name chosen to honor Brandeis's Zionism.
  • Kfar Brandeis (lit: Brandeis village) is a suburb of the Israeli city of Hadera.
  • One of the buildings of Hillman Housing Corporation, a housing cooperative founded by the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
  • The Brandeis School, a private Jewish day-school in Lawrence, New York.
  • The Brandeis School of San Francisco, a K–8 independent coeducational Jewish day school in San Francisco, California (formerly one of two campuses of Brandeis Hillel Day School).
  • Brandeis Marin, an independent Jewish school in San Rafael, California (formerly one of two campus of Brandeis Hillel Day School).
  • The Brandeis-Bardin Institute, in Simi Valley, near Los Angeles, a Jewish educational outreach resource.
  • The New York City Public Schools Louis D. Brandeis High School, named for the justice and dissolved in 2009, though the building, which houses several smaller educational units, is still called the Brandeis Building.
  • Louis D. Brandeis High School, in San Antonio, Texas, where the Northside Independent School District names all of its comprehensive high schools for Supreme Court Justices
  • Louis D. Brandeis AZA #932, a B'nai B'rith Youth Organization Chapter in Dallas.
  • Brandeis AZA #1519, a B'nai B'rith Youth Organization Chapter in Rockville, Maryland.
  • Brandeis AZA #1999, a B'nai B'rith Youth Organization Chapter in Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Hadassah-Brandeis Apprentice School of Printing in Jerusalem, Israel

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