Mel Urofsky to Receive the Brandeis Medal


Since 1982, the Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville has periodically awarded the Brandeis Medal to “recognize individuals whose lives reflect Justice Brandeis’ commitment to the ideals of individual liberty, concern for the disadvantaged, and public service.” The recipient receives the medal in a public ceremony, at which they deliver a speech on a subject that is at least tangentially related to Louis D. Brandeis. Past honorees have included Harry Blackmun, Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Janet Reno, Morris Dees, Robert Morganthau, John Lewis and Archibald Cox.

This year’s recipient will be Mel Urofsky, author of Louis D. Brandeis: A Life and the co-editor of 7 volumes of letters by Brandeis. Urofsky will be awarded the medal at 1:00 PM on April 1st in room 275 of the Law School, here at the University of Louisville, whereupon he will deliver his lecture. Afterward, there will be a reception and book signing. The event is free and open to the public.

More information can be found here.

On a related note, the library here received last week the latest two issues of the University of Louisville Law Review. The last time the Brandeis Medal was awarded was two years ago, in March 2008. The recipient was Linda Greenhouse, former New York Times Supreme Court correspondent.  The first of the two issues of the Review (volume 47, number 1) reprints the speech Greenhouse gave on the occasion. (The Review seems to be running a little behind–even though the issue just came out a couple months ago, its date is Fall 2008.) Greenhouse’s speech was called “The Counter-Factual Court.” In it, Greenhouse talks about how Brandeis’ brief in Muller v. Oregon opened the way to the modern amici curiae briefs that now flood the Supreme Court. Brandeis created a new type of brief that relied on sociological studies as much as legal precedents because Brandeis felt the facts could speak for themselves. But, as Greenhouse puts it, “The same facts can speak very differently to different people–and to different judges.” Greenhouse focuses primarily on Justice Kennedy’s majority in  Gonzales v. Carhart (127 S.Ct. 1610), the case about the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act. Greenhouse frames her argument as a contrast between two briefs–one by Sandra Cano (the former “Mary Doe” of Doe v. Bolton) and the Justice Foundation and another brief by the American Medical Women’s Association and the American Public Health Association. What’s a judge to do when faced with competing “facts” from opposing briefs? Apparently, pick the ones that support your predetermined decision and ignore the others.

Unfortunately, the University of Louisville Law Review does not post any of its articles online and Ms. Greenhouse has not posted any of her writing on SSRN, so you may have a hard time finding this article. But then, that’s what libraries are for…

Update: the latest issue of the University of Louisville Law Review (volume 49, number 2) has Urofsky’s speech “Louis D. Brandeis and His Clerks” (pages 163-183.)  Also, someone has brought to my attention that back issues of the Review are available through Hein Online. Unfortunately, as of this writing, they have not posted the issue with Urofsky’s speech yet, but Greenhouse’s speech can be found there.


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