Today in Supreme Court History

Today in Supreme Court History: July 24, 1997

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

7/24/1997: Justice William Brennan dies.

Justice William Brennan


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  1. His father, a union organizer, got beat up and nearly killed by corporation goons in the 1890’s. Presumably a formative experience for him.

    1. Wikipedia says nothing about this, but he was born in 1906, so any affect on the son was pretty indirect.

      1. You know what I mean.

        He grew up hearing his father talk about it and saw the scars.

        1. Are you making this up? Exaggerating what you read somewhere? Your OP said “presumably”, which leaves room for doubt.

          In short, no, I do not know what you meant.

          1. I learned this when in law school, when Brennan was still on the Court.

            I did find this: “As a ten-year old Brennan witnessed his father, a union organizer, carried home by his comrades, beaten and bloody, after an encounter with the Newark, N.J. police.” Eisler, A Justice for All at 19 (1993).

            Maybe that was a different encounter; the Eisler book came out later.

            Either way, when Brennan heard civil rights cases in the 1950s and 1960s, involving people beaten up because of their beliefs, he surely was thinking, “That could have been my Dad.”

            1. So, you’re saying that possibly that Brennan decided cases based on subjective empathy rather than law, precedent, and the Constitution?

              1. The Constitution was written by men who saw others beaten up for their beliefs. If you’re going to be an “originalist” . . .

                1. That’s really not an answer to my critique.

                  1. Justice Brennan was probably influenced by his father’s experience much as Justice Gorsuch was influenced by his mother’s experience as a polluter-coddling, ethically bankrupt government employee (and the manner in which she was treated for her shabby conduct).

                    Does that help you understand this?

                    1. Oh, I understand. Never didn’t. Just like Justice Thomas’ experience of Catholic school surely influenced him towards supporting religious freedom.

                      Now for the more serious question: Shouldn’t you be off engaged in auto-erotic asphyxiation somewhere, bothering yourself instead of reasonable people?

                    2. My hobby is helping to shove progress down the throats of whining bigots, right-wing malcontents, and disaffected clingers. Has been for decades. Helping the liberal-libertarian mainstream win the culture war against conservatives has been fulfilling, enjoyable, important, and successful.

                      How has the culture war been going for you, mad_kalak . . . say, during the most recent 40 or 50 years?

        2. Is this written anywhere in an auto-biography or letter or personal papers?

  2. Ike’s worse mistake.

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