February 21, 2024


Future Depends on What You Do

What would Louis Brandeis do about Supreme Courtroom ethics?

Supreme Court docket Justice Clarence Thomas is generating headlines once more — this time for accepting hospitality from his good friend, Dallas real estate entrepreneur Harlan Crow, who also reportedly procured Thomas’s boyhood house in Georgia and has funded other tasks for the justice and his spouse. Democrats are contacting for an investigation Republicans dismiss such attacks as rank partisanship from Thomas’s conservatism. It could possibly be a revealing workout to consider a fictional conversation between a different justice and his partner, whom opponents criticized for their remaining-wing political interests.

The dialogue down below is an imagined discussion concerning Justice Louis D. Brandeis and his spouse, Alice Goldmark Brandeis. President Woodrow Wilson appointed Brandeis as the initial Jewish justice to the U.S. Supreme Court docket in 1916. Most of this fictional discussion is primarily based on details bordering the Brandeises’ life, as could be in comparison to Justice Thomas and his wife, Virginia, routinely in the news for alleged conflicts of desire.

The scene: The Brandeises’ modest 5th-floor condominium on California Avenue, Washington, D.C. 

The ten years: Roaring Twenties

Alice: Hello, honey. How did your perform go at the court nowadays?

Louis: Very well, as the only Jew on the Supreme Court docket, I experienced to deal with one of my antisemitic colleagues once more.

Alice: What happened?

Louis: Justice McReynolds refused to have his photo taken with me, and he will not retain the services of Jewish legislation clerks. He also rejects any clerk applicant who wears a wristwatch. Only pocket watches are suitable.

Alice: But, try to remember, you refuse to have some modern-day conveniences, way too, like a car or truck. As for McReynolds, I experienced hoped that these types of blatant discrimination would vanish immediately after your appointment.

Louis: Me, much too, but, even worse, I’m nevertheless deemed a “Bolshevik” because of my faith and my professional-labor positions ahead of I turned a justice.

Alice: By the way, expensive, I’m supporting two Italian immigrant anarchists in Massachusetts.

Louis: Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti?

Alice: Sure, I supplied their families our Boston dwelling as a area to remain all through the trial for allegedly murdering a guard and paymaster during an armed robbery.

Louis: You know, Alice, we often have conditions just before the court docket involving anarchists, so be sure to be watchful. I have to keep judicial objectivity, specifically given that I wrote my anti-corporate ebook, “Other People’s Money and How the Bankers Use It,” two many years in advance of President Wilson nominated me.

Alice: Of training course, Louis. I’m not supporting anarchy, but I feel even anarchists have earned thanks course of action of law, and I’m afraid Sacco and Vanzetti could possibly not get a truthful trial now that this “Red Scare” is underway.

Louis: You know that I like your gatherings of like-minded liberals below on Sunday afternoons. Just never arrange a socialist mobile with your progressive good friends. It wouldn’t seem proper for the wife of a Supreme Court justice to pursue extremist political philosophies or be paid out by a radical desire team.

Alice: Have you read nearly anything about that authentic estate mogul who needs to acquire your boyhood house in Louisville?

Louis: No, as I comprehend, the house is to be bought by a Turners German athletic club to develop into a gymnasium. In addition, it would not be kosher for me to acquire funds from a businessman who may possibly gain from decisions the court docket problems.

Alice: But you have this sort of fond memories of your hometown in Kentucky, even though you have been away for many years in Boston and Washington.

Louis: I’ll generally have a smooth spot for my indigenous town on the Ohio River, and just keep in mind that our last resting position will be at the University of Louisville Legislation University. I’ve advised them that we do not want anything pretentious — just a very simple pill with our names higher than the place our ashes will be interred beneath the school’s entrance portico. And I’ll donate all my pre-courtroom papers to them.

Alice: Speaking of serious estate, do you know everyone who may offer you us respite from Washington’s sizzling summer time heat at their household up north?

Louis: Once again, let us be careful about accepting favors from everyone. Even though the court has extremely couple of money ethics guidelines, as progressives, you and I consider in staying away from even the slightest trace of government corruption. I have discovered a modest cottage on Cape Cod that we can afford to pay for.

Alice: Has any person made available to shell out to have your formal portrait painted?

Louis: Yes, my clerks have, which is a good custom at the court docket, but I really don’t require these a memorial. There’ll be a very simple bust of me in the halls of the new court making, if Chief Justice Taft can find the income to construct it. I feel a lavish marble palace on Capitol Hill is pointless, but you know what my former colleague, Justice Hughes, says about the Supreme Courtroom, “The Republic endures, and this is the symbol of its faith.” May well it often be so. Now let us have one particular of our famously abstemious dinners, dear.

Barbara A. Perry is Presidential Experiments director and Gerald L. Baliles Professor at the College of Virginia’s Miller Middle. She served as a Supreme Court Fellow in 1994-95 and is the creator of “The Priestly Tribe: The Supreme Court’s Graphic in the American Intellect.” Adhere to her on Twitter @BarbaraPerryUVA.

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