Brandeis Nomination Centennial Display


Full picture of display of the centennial of Brandeis' nomination to the Supreme Court at the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law Library at the University of Louisville.

In honor of the centennial of Woodrow Wilson nominating Brandeis to the U.S. Supreme Court, we at the law library of the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville. And by “we” I mean mostly Kurt Metzmeier.

Flanking both sides of the display case are framed copies of two front pages from the New York Times. The one on the left is from January 29th, 1916 and is about Brandeis’ nomination. (Interestingly, the Times says the nomination was “today” but the story itself is dated January 28th. This was enough to confuse Wikipedia which gives the date of the nomination as the 29th instead of the correct date.) The one on the right is from June 2nd, 1916 and is about the Senate confirming the nomination.

Left side of the display case.

In the left side of the case we have the book Justice on Trial: the Case of Louis D. Brandeis by A. L. Todd, which relates the details behind the nomination and confirmation. There are two of the editorial cartoons that I mentioned in an earlier post and a March 22nd 1916 letter from Brandeis’ friend and political ally Senator Robert M. La Follette.

The right side of the display case.

The right side of the case has a copy of the transcripts of the Senate confirmation hearings and a rare copy of the first edition of Brandeis’ book Other People’s Money. We actually have 3 copies of Other People’s Money but this one has its original dust cover–a real rarity for a book from that time. Also in the case, but added after I took this picture, is a campaign button from Robert La Follette’s 1924 presidential campaign.

There are lots of letters to Brandeis from this time period in our collection. But I picked this letter from La Follette for the display because it is one of the more interesting ones. Not only does it give a good idea of the type of support people were offering to Brandeis at the time but it is also a revealing example of the friendship between the two men. Brandeis had many colleagues during his career but seemingly few close friends. La Follette and his family were an exception. The two met shortly after Brandeis’ arrival in Washington and the two immediately hit it off. Brandeis was a frequent guest at the La Follette family dinner table and he remained close with the rest of the family after La Follette’s death in 1925. La Follette thought so much of him that Brandeis was his first choice for his running mate in his 1924 presidential campaign. But he also knew him well enough not to be surprised when Brandeis turned him down.

Since the letter is not greatly visible in the pictures above, I have transcribed it below. I should mention one caveat about the reproduction though. La Follette wrote it in the heat of the moment after reading something that annoyed him. You can almost see his anger building as the letter goes on and by the end ink and vitriol seem to be almost flying off of the paper. As a result, La Follette’s handwriting gets worse as the letter goes along and the second to last paragraph is indecipherable at times. But the gist certainly comes through.

My Dear Louis–

You know me & can trust me. Take(?) the hearings and make a brief for me just as if I was the man to be confirmed.

Don’t ask anyone else to do this. You must do it. Send it to me on plain paper typewritten without any signature. It will save me time. I would not ask this but [I] must leave here Saturday night & shall not be back before the Committee reports I fear.

There will be some hot-work before the vote comes and these hell-hounds must get what is coming to them. I mean these Bar Association presidents — thieving presidents– these sleek respectable crooks whose opinions are for sale. There are no facts in the(?) case – but these opinions hurt.

However every foot of the ground must be covered and the answers which have been […] in […] — the informal […] must be sharpened and given more edge.

If this notes lacks in calmness & poise I let it be known to you that I have just been reading a damned mean editorial in the Wash. Times — Ever yours, B.

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