The Brandeis Papers Get Mentioned in the New Yorker


The December 1, 2014 issue of The New Yorker has a great story by Jill Lepore titled “The Great Paper Caper.” It is about the theft of various items from the collection of Felix Frankfurter papers at the Library of Congress, and it raises interesting questions about Supreme Court secrecy vs. historical and academic interest in the background of court decisions. I would have been interested in it anyway, but it has the added attraction of mentioning the University of Louisville’s collection of Brandeis papers. Not that it says much: She mentions how Brandeis started sending us his papers before he even retired from the bench. (The subtext of the story is that he was the first Supreme Court justice to donate his papers to an institution other than the Library of Congress. I wonder if that’s true.) Then she relates the tale of how Frankfurter came by the law school in 1941 and took back a number of his letters. (Fortunately, he didn’t get them all.) The story is told with more detail than I have heard in the past. She doesn’t cite any source for the incident but she does cite Mel Urofsky for another story later in the article, so I suspect that he was the source for this as well. Anyway, it’s a great read and I recommend it to anyone interested in Supreme Court history or archives.

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