Cal. Litig. 2018, Volume 31, Number 1

Louis D. Brandeis: American Prophet by Jeffrey Rosen

Reviewed by Marc Alexander

Jeffrey Rosen, law professor, legal commentator, and President and CEO of the National Constitution Center, is an excellent advocate on behalf of Justice Brandeis’ greatness, in Louis D. Brandeis: American Prophet. Indeed, Rosen has made a convincing case that Justice Brandeis was the most impactful judge during the first half of the 20th century. Rosen’s brief for Brandeis provides a thematic account of Brandeis’ main ideas. The book is short, smart, epigrammatic at times, and always illuminating about Brandeis as a thinker and as a man.

[Page 35]

In photographs, Brandeis appears at times to have an ascetic, other-worldly look. FDR referred to him as "Old Isaiah." Even before he was appointed to the Supreme Court, however, Brandeis demonstrated his very practical accomplishments. After a stellar academic career at Harvard Law School, Brandeis and his law school classmate Samuel Warren coauthored the seminal law review article, The Right to Privacy, 4 Harv. L.R. 193 (1890)— an enormous contribution to American law, considering that the word "privacy" is nowhere to be found in the Constitution. Before joining the Supreme Court in 1916, Brandeis had obtained financial security, earning $100,000 a year, and saving $2,000,000— adjust that to present value for 100 years of inflation. But Brandeis looked beyond any confining legal practice, engaging himself in issues of public interest, and earning the title of "the people’s lawyer." He became involved in political issues locally, as well as nationally, as a political advisor to President Wilson.

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