Quotes From Supreme Court Justices

2000 Election (Selection)

It is confidence in the men and women who administer the judicial system that is the true backbone of the rule of law. Time will one day heal the wound to the confidence that will be inflicted by today's decision. One thing, however, is certain. Although we may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year's Presidential election, the identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the Nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law. I respectfully dissent. Justice John Paul Stevens 12-12-2000

1st Amendment

"If the First Amendment means anything, it means that a state has no business telling a man, sitting alone in his own house, what books he may read or what films he may watch. Our whole constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men's minds." Justice Thurgood Marshall (1908-1993) first Black US Supreme Court Justice Source: Stanley v. Georgia, 1969 "It was not by accident or coincidence that the rights to freedom in speech and press were coupled in a single guaranty with the rights of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition for redress of grievances. All these, though not identical, are inseparable. They are cognate rights, and therefore are united in the first Article's assurance." Judge Wiley B. Rutledge [Wiley Blount Rutledge] U.S. Supreme Court Justice Source: Thomas v. Collins, 1944 "Freedom to publish means freedom for all and not for some. Freedom to publish is guaranteed by the constitution but freedom to continue to prevent others from publishing is not." Justice Hugo L. Black (1886-1971) US Supreme Court Justice Source: One Manís Stand For Freedom, 1963 "But our society -- unlike most in the world -- presupposes that freedom and liberty are in a frame of reference that makes the individual, not government, the keeper of his tastes, beliefs, and ideas; that is the philosophy of the First Amendment; and it is this article of faith that sets us apart from most nations in the world." William O. Douglas (1898-1980), U. S. Supreme Court Justice Source: dissenting, Paris Adult Theatre I v. Slaton "As a matter of constitutional tradition, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, we presume that governmental regulation of the content of speech is more likely to interfere with the free exchange of ideas than to encourage it. The interest in encouraging freedom of expression in a democratic society outweighs any theoretical but unproven benefit of censorship." Justice John Paul Stevens U. S. Supreme Court Justice Source: Majority Opinion, Communications Decency Act, 26 June 1997 "Compelling a man by law to pay his money to elect candidates or advocate law or doctrines he is against differs only in degree, if at all, from compelling him by law to speak for a candidate, a party, or a cause he is against. The very reason for the First Amendment is to make the people of this country free to think, speak, write and worship as they wish, not as the Government commands." -- Justice Hugo L. Black (1886-1971) US Supreme Court Justice Source: IAM v. Street, 367 U.S., 1961.

4th Amendment

The 4th Amendment and the personal rights it secures have a long history. At the very core stands the right of a man to retreat into his own home and there be free from unreasonable governmental intrusion. Potter Stewart Source:Bartkus v. Illinois, 5 March 1961 "This provision (the 4th Amendment) speaks for itself. Its plain object is to secure the perfect enjoyment of that great right of the common law, that a man's house shall be his own castle, privileged against all civil and military intrusion." Justice Joseph Story (1779-1845) US Supreme Court Justice 1833 http://liberty-tree.ca/qb/Joseph.Story.Quote.8610 "It is better, so the Fourth Amendment teaches us, that the guilty sometimes go free than the citizens be subject to easy arrest." Justice William O. Douglas Source: Henry v. United States, 1959

5th Amendment

The critical point is that the Constitution places the right of silence beyond the reach of government. William O. Douglas Source:http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/w/william_o_douglas.html

Advice to the Young

The advice of elders to young men is very apt to be as unreal as a list of the hundred best books. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Source:The Path Of Law

Affirmative Action

I yield to no one in my earnest hope that the time will come when an 'affirmative action' program is unnecessary and is ...only a relic of the past....Then persons will be regarded as persons, and discrimination of the type we address today will be an ugly feature of history that is instructive but is behind us....In order to get beyond racism, we must first take account of race.... And in order to treat some persons equally, we must treat them differently. Harry A. Blackmun Source:Univ of Cal v. Bakke


"Anonymous pamphlets, leaflets, brochures and even books have played an important role in the progress of mankind. Persecuted groups and sects from time to time throughout history have been able to criticize the oppressive practices and laws either anonymously or not at all... It is plain that anonymity has sometimes been assumed for the most constructive purposes." Justice Hugo L. Black Source: Tally v. California, 1960


Since when have we Americans been expected to bow submissively to authority and speak with awe and reverence to those who represent us? William O. Douglas Source:http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/w/william_o_douglas.html In view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our Constitution is colorblind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens." John Marshall Harlan Source: Plessy v. Ferguson, 1896

Bad Law

Great cases like hard cases make bad law. Oliver Windell Holmes Source:Northern Securities Co v. US 1904


"Republics are created by the virtue, public spirit, and intelligence of the citizens. They fall, when the wise are banished from the public councils, because they dare to be honest, and the profligate are rewarded, because they flatter the people, in order to betray them." Justice Joseph Story (1779-1845) US Supreme Court Justice 1833

Big Brother

"Big Brother in the form of an increasingly powerful government and in an increasingly powerful private sector will pile the records high with reasons why privacy should give way to national security, to law and order, to efficiency of operation, to scientific advancement and the like." Justice William O. Douglas Source: Points of Rebellion, 1969


The mind of a bigot is like the pupil of the eye. The more light you shine on it, the more it will contract. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Source:http://www.quotationspage.com/quotes/Oliver_Wendell_Holmes_Jr./

Bill of Rights

"The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy, to place them beyond the reach of majorities and officials and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One's right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections." Justice Robert H. Jackson (1892-1954), U. S. Supreme Court Justice Source: West Virginia Board of Education vs. Barnette, 1943 "It is my belief that there are 'absolutes' in our Bill of Rights, and that they were put there on purpose by men who knew what the words meant and meant their prohibitions to be 'absolutes.' " Justice Hugo L. Black Source: 1962 http://liberty-tree.ca/qb/Hugo.Black.Quote.8F10 "In my judgment the people of no nation can lose their liberty so long as a Bill of Rights like ours survives and its basic purposes are conscientiously interpreted, enforced and respected so as to afford continuous protection against old, as well as new, devices and practices which might thwart those purposes. I fear to see the consequences of the Court's practice of substituting its own concepts of decency and fundamental justice for the language of the Bill of Rights as its point of departure in interpreting and enforcing that Bill of Rights." -- Justice Hugo L. Black (1886-1971) US Supreme Court Justice Source: Adamson v. California, 332 U.S. 46, 89 (Dissent) (1947)

Brown V. Board Of Education

In approaching this problem, we cannot turn the clock back... Earl Warren, 1954 Source:The Supreme Court in American History, 1965

Can't Do It

Deep-seated preferences can not be argued about. Oliver Wendell Holmes Source:Natural Law

Capital Punishment

Capital punishment...treats members of the human race...as objects to be toyed with and discarded. William J. Brennan Source:http://www.memorablequotations.com/brennan.htm


"The First and Fourteenth Amendments say that Congress and the States shall make "no law" which abridges freedom of speech or of the press. In order to sanction a system of censorship I would have to say that "no law" does not mean what it says, that "no law" is qualified to mean "some" laws. I cannot take this step." William O. Douglas (1898-1980), U. S. Supreme Court Justice Source: Superior Films v. Department of Education of the State of Ohio,1954 "Regardless of the strength of the government's interest [in protecting children,] the level of discourse reaching a mailbox simply cannot be limited to that which would be suitable for a sandbox." Thurgood Marshall,1983 Source:http://www.zaadz.com/quotes/authors/us_supreme_court/ Censorship reflects a society's lack of confidence in itself. It is the landmark of an authoritarian regime..." Potter Stewart Source:Ginsberg v. United States, 1966

Certainty and Repose

Certainty generally is illusion, and repose is not the destiny of man. Oliver Wendell Holmes Source:The Path Of Law


"A nation's success or failure in achieving democracy is judged in part by how well it responds to those at the bottom and the margins of the social order... The very problems that democratic change brings -- social tension, heightened expectations, political unrest -- are also strengths. Discord is a sign of progress afoot; unease is an indication that a society has let go of what it knows and is working out something better and new." Sandra Day O'Connor Source:The Nation

Character of Every Act

The character of every act depends upon the circumstances in which it is done. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Source:http://www.quotationspage.com/quotes/Oliver_Wendell_Holmes_Jr./

Checks and Restraints

"Those in power need checks and restraints lest they come to identify the common good for their own tastes and desires, and their continuation in office as essential to the preservation of the nation." William O. Douglas (1898-1980), U. S. Supreme Court Justice Source: We, The Judges, 1956

Church and State

"The First Amendment has erected a wall between Church and State. That wall must be kept high and impregnable. We could not approve the slightest breach." Hugo L. Black Everson V Board of Education 1947 This freedom was first in the Bill of Rights. It was set forth in absolute terms, and its strenght is its rigidity. The First Amendment's purpose was to create a complete and permanent separation of the spheres of religious activity and civil authority by comprehensively forbidding every form of public aid or support for religion. Tom Clark Source:Everson v. Board of Education "From the standpoint of freedom of speech and the press, it is enough to point out that the state has no legitimate interest in protecting any or all religions from views distasteful to them... It is not the business of government to suppress real or imagined attacks upon a particular religious doctrine." Justice Tom C. Clark (1899-1977) U. S. Supreme Court Justice Source: Burstyn v. Wilson, 1952 "The door of the Free Exercise Clause stands tightly closed against any government regulation of religious beliefs as such. Government may neither compel affirmation of a repugnant belief, nor penalize or discriminate against individuals or groups because they hold views abhorrent to the authorities." Justice William J. Brennan, (1906-1997) U. S. Supreme Court Justice Source: Sherbert v. Verner, 1963

Civil Liberties

"At the foundation of our civil liberties lies the principle that denies to government officials an exceptional position before the law and which subjects them to the same rules of conduct that are commands to the citizen." Justice Louis D. Brandeis Source: Burdeau v. McDowell, 1921 "Civil government cannot let any group ride roughshod over others simply because their consciences tell them to do so." -- Justice Robert H. Jackson (1892-1954), U. S. Supreme Court Justice http://quotes.liberty-tree.ca/quote_blog/Robert.Jackson.Quote.21A5 "Those who won our independence by revolution were not cowards. They did not fear political change. They did not exalt order at the cost of liberty." Justice Louis Brandeis

Clear and Present Danger

"What finally emerges from the 'clear and present danger' cases is a working principle that the substantive evil must be extremely serious and the degree of imminence extremely high before utterances can be punished... It must be taken as a command of the broadest scope that explicit language, read in the context of a liberty-loving society, will allow." Justice Hugo L. Black (1886-1971) US Supreme Court Justice Source: Bridges v. California


Undoubtedly competition involves waste. What human activity does not?... There are wastes of competion which do not develop but kill. These the law can and should eliminate, by regulating competion. Louis D. Brandeis Source:The Curse of Bigness No system of regulation can safely be substituted for the operation of indivdual liberty as expressed in competion. Louis D. Brandeis Source:Brandeis: A Free Man's Life


To obtain a just compromise, concession must not only be mutual--it must be equal also....There can be no hope that either will yield more than it gets in return. John Marshall Source:The Life Of John Marshall

Congressional Powers

"It is fundamental that the great powers of Congress to conduct war and to regulate the Nation's foreign relations are subject to the constitutional requirements of due process. The imperative necessity for safeguarding these rights to procedural due process under the gravest of emergencies has existed throughout our constitutional history, for it is then, under the pressing exigencies of crisis, that there is the greatest temptation to dispense with fundamental constitutional guarantees which, it is feared, will inhibit governmental action." Justice Arthur Goldberg US Supreme Court Justice Source: Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez, 1963


Our Constitution is color blind, and neither knows or tolerates classes among citizens. John Marshall Harlan Plessy V Ferguson 1896 If the provisions of the Constitution be not upheld when they pinch as well as when they comfort, they may as well be abandoned. Charles Evan Hughes Home Building & Loan Ass'n V Blaisdel 1934 The contention that...the Constitution is to be disregarded if it stands in the way of that which is deemed of the public advantage...is distructive of the whole theory upon which our American Commonwealths have been founded. Horace H. Lurton Source:North American Review, 1911 The Constitution is not neutral. It was designed to take the government off the backs of people. William O. Douglas Source: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/w/william_o_douglas.html At the constitutional level where we work, 90 percent of any decision is emotional. The rational part of us supplies the reasons for supporting our predilections. William O. Douglas Source:http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/w/william_o_douglas.html "The makers of our constitution undertook to secure conditions favorable to the pursuit of happiness... They sought to protect Americans in their beliefs, their thoughts, their emotions and their sensations. They conferred, as against the government, the right to be let alone, the most comprehensive of the rights and the right most valued by civilized men." Justice Louis D. Brandeis (1856-1941) US Supreme Court Justice Source: Olmstead v. United States, 1928 "Here I close my opinion. I could not say less in view of questions of such gravity that go down to the very foundations of the government. If the provisions of the Constitution can be set aside by an Act of Congress, where is the course of usurpation to end? The present assault upon capital is but the beginning. It will be but the stepping-stone to others, larger and more sweeping, till our political contests will become a war of the poor against the rich; a war growing in intensity and bitterness." Justice Stephen J. Field,(1816-1899) US Supreme Court Justice Source: United States Supreme Court opinion, Pollock v. Farmers Loan & Trust Co. (1898) "The layman's constitutional view is that what he likes is constitutional and that which he doesn't like is unconstitutional." Justice Hugo L. Black Source: New York Times, 26 February 1971 http://liberty-tree.ca/qb/Hugo.Black.Quote.8F12 "The public welfare demands that constitutional cases must be decided according to the terms of the Constitution itself, and not according to judges’ views of fairness, reasonableness, or justice." Justice Hugo L. Black (1886-1971) US Supreme Court Justice Source: Lecture, Columbia University, 1968


"I belive the Court has no power to add to or subtract from the procedures set forth by the founders...I shall not at any time surrender my belief that the document itself should be our guide, not our own concept of what is fair, decent, and right." Hugo L. Black 1969 Interview Source:The Supreme Court and Its Great Justices by Sidney H. Asch


The old idea of a good bargain was a transaction in which one man got the better of another. The new idea of a good contract is a transaction which is good for both parties to it. Louis D. Brandeis Source:Business--A Profession


To do the contradictory is a tough problem....You build a fireproof house and nevertheless take out fire insurance. Filex Frankfurter Source:Letters


When the [Supreme] Court moved to Washington in 1800, it was provided with no books, which probably accounts for the high quality of early opinions. Robert H. Jackson Source:http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/r/roberthja124920.html We do not sit as a superlegislature to weigh the wisdom of legislation. William O. Douglas Source:http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/w/william_o_douglas.html We who have the final word can speak softly or angrily. We can seek to challenge and annoy, as we need not stay docile and quiet. William O. Douglas Source:http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/w/william_o_douglas.html

Court's Job

We must distinguish between the sound certainty and the sham, between what is gold and what is tinsel; and then, when certainty is attained, we must remember that it is not the only good, that we can buy it at too high a price. Benjamin Nathan Cardozo Source:The Grouth of the Law

Crime; Government

"Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a law breaker, it breeds contempt for the law." Justice Louis D. Brandeis Source: Olmstead v. United States, 1928


It seemed to me that I had barely reached the Court when people were trying to get me off. William O. Douglas Source:http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/w/william_o_douglas.html


"Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the Government's purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding." Justice Louis D. Brandeis US Supreme Court Justice 1928 Source:dissenting, Olmstead v. United States, 277 US 479 (1928)


Democracy substitutes self-restraint for external restraint. It is more difficult to maintain than to achieve. Louis D. Brandeis Source:http://www.memorablequotations.com/brandeis.htm


"A people who extend civil liberties only to preferred groups start down the path either to dictatorship of the right or the left." Justice William O. Douglas, U. S. Supreme Court Justice Source:http://quotes.liberty-tree.ca/quote_blog/William.O..Douglas.Quote.C5AF


"When we lose the right to be different, we lose the privilege to be free." -- Justice Charles Evans Hughes (1862-1948) Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court


Discrimination is the act of treating differently two persons... under like circumstances. Louis Dembitz Brandeis Source:National Life Ins Co v. US A state government may adopt race-conscious programs if the purpose of such programs is to remove the disparate racial impact it actions might otherwise have and if there is reason to believe that the disparate impact is itself the product of past discrimination, whether its own or that of society at large. William Joseph Brennan Source:Univ of Cal v. Bakke


To have doubted one's own first principles is the mark of a civilized man. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Source:http://www.quotationspage.com/quotes/Oliver_Wendell_Holmes_Jr./


"While the collateral consequences of drugs such as cocaine are indisputably severe, they are not unlike those which flow from the misuse of other, legal, substances." Justice Byron R. White source:http://quotes.liberty-tree.ca/quote_blog/Byron.White.Quote.B29B

Due Process (5th Amendment)

The 5th Amendment is an old friend and a good friend. One of the great landmarks in men's struggle to be free of tyranny, to be decent and civilized. William O. Douglas Source: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/w/william_o_douglas.html "Whatever disagreement there may be as to the scope of the phrase "due process of law" there can be no doubt that it embraces the fundamental conception of a fair trial, with opportunity to be heard." Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1841-1935) US Supreme Court Justice, also known as "The Great Dissenter" Source: Frank v. Magnum, 237 U.S. 309, 347 (1915).

Economic System

The legislature must be free to choose unless government is to be rendered impotent. The Fourteenth amendment has no more imbedded in the Constitution our preference for some particular set of economic beliefs, than it has adopted, in the name of liberty, the system of theology, which we happen to approve. Halen Fiske Stone Morehead V New York 1936

Emergency Power

"The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace, and covers with the shield of its protection all classes of men, at all times, and under all circumstances. No doctrine, involving more pernicious consequences, was ever invented by the wit of man than that any of its provisions can be suspended during any of the great exigencies of government. Such a doctrine leads directly to anarchy or despotism, but the theory of necessity on which it is based is false; for the government, within the Constitution, has all the powers granted to it, which are necessary to preserve its existence; as has been happily proved by the result of the great effort to throw off its just authority." Justice David Davis (1815-1886) U.S. Supreme Court Justice 1862-1877 Source: Ex parte Milligan 71 U.S. 2 (1866) DAVIS, J., Opinion of the Court http://liberty-tree.ca/qb/David.Davis.Quote.5879 "Emergency does not create power. Emergency does not increase granted power or remove or diminish the restrictions imposed upon power granted or reserved. The Constitution was adopted in a period of grave emergency. Its grants of power to the federal government and its limitations of the power of the States were determined in the light of emergency, and they are not altered by emergency." Justice Charles Evans Hughes (1862-1948) Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Source: Home Building & Loan Assn v. Blairsdell, 1934

End Justifies the Means?

"To declare that in the administration of criminal law the end justifies the means -- to declare that the Government may commit crimes in order to secure conviction of a private criminal -- would bring terrible retribution." -- Justice Louis D. Brandeis (1856-1941) US Supreme Court Justice Source: 1912 http://quotes.liberty-tree.ca/quote_blog/Louis.Brandeis.Quote.8F2D

Equal Protection

The guarantee of equal protection cannot mean one thing when applied to one individual and something else when applied to a person of another color. If both are not accorded the same protection, then it is not equal. Lewis F. Powell, Jr Source:Univ Of Calif. v. Bakke (1978)


Equality is equity. Noah Hayes Swayne Source:Pacific Insance Co. v. Soule


"It is not the function of our Government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the Government from falling into error." Robert H. Jackson, 1950 Source:American Communications Association v. Douds,339 U.S. 382,442 If err we must, let us err on the side of tolerance. Filex Frankfurter Source:New York Times, Nov 23, 1952

Executive Power

Men have discovered no technique for long preserving free government except that the executive be under the law. Justice Robert H. Jackson Source:Sam Ervin, The Whole Truth


Often a liberal antidote of experience supplies a sovereign cure for a paralyzing abstraction built apon a theory. Benjamin Nathan Cardozo Source:Paradoxes Of Legal


It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system, that a single courageous State may if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory, and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country. Louis Brandeis 1932 Source:Serria Club

Facts and the Law

If facts are changing, law cannot be static. Felix Frankfuter Source:Law and Politics

Final End

"Those who won our independence believed that the final end of the State was to make men free to develop their faculties... They valued liberty both as an end and as a means. They believed liberty to be the secret of happiness and courage to be the secret of liberty." Justice Louis D. Brandeis (1856-1941) US Supreme Court Justice Source: Whitney v. California, 1927


To rest upon a formula is a slumber that prolonged, means death. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr Source:Ideals and Doubts

Free Competition

Free competition is worth more to society than it costs. -- Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1841-1935) US Supreme Court Justice, also known as "The Great Dissenter" Source: Vegelahn v. Guntner, 167 Mass. 92, 44 N.E. 1077, 1080 (1896) (opinion of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts).

Freedom Of Association

"Privacy in one's associations may in many circumstances be indispensable to freedom of association, particularly where a group espouses dissident beliefs." John Marshall Harlan, (1899-1971) U. S. Supreme Court Justice Source: NAACP v. Alabama

Freedom Of Movement

"Freedom of movement is the very essence of our free society -- once the right to travel is curtailed, all other rights suffer." -- William O. Douglas (1898-1980), U. S. Supreme Court Justice http://quotes.liberty-tree.ca/quote_blog/William.Douglas.Quote.3334

Freedom of the Press

"Once the government can demand of a publisher the names of the purchasers of his publication, the free press as we know it disappears. Then the spectre of a government agent will look over the shoulder of everyone who reads. ... Fear of criticism goes with every person into the bookstall. The subtle, imponderable pressures of the orthodox lay hold. Some will fear to read what is unpopular, what the powers-that-be dislike. ... fear will take the place of freedom in the libraries, book stores, and homes in the land." -- William O. Douglas (1898-1980), U. S. Supreme Court Justice http://quotes.liberty-tree.ca/quote_blog/William.Douglas.Quote.3346

Freedom Of Religion

"The government must pursue a course of complete neutrality toward religion." Justice John Paul Stevens (1920- )American jurist, senior Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Source: 1985 "Just as the right to speak and the right to refrain from speaking are complementary components of a broader concept of individual freedom, so also the individual’s freedom to choose his own creed is the counterpart of his right to refrain from accepting the creed established by the majority." Justice John Paul Stevens U. S. Supreme Court Justice Source: Wallace v. Jaffree, 1985

Free Society

To rely on a tidy formula for the easy determination of what is a fundamental right for purpose of legal inforcement may satisfy a longing for certainty but ignores the movements of a free socity. Felix Frankfurter Source:Wolf v. Colorado

Free Thought

If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other it is the principle of free thought--not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought we hate. Oliver Wendell Holmes, 1929 Source:The Supreme Court in American History, 1965 "Our forefathers found the evils of free thinking more to be endured than the evils of inquest or suppression. This is because thoughtful, bold and independent minds are essential to the wise and considered self-government." Justice Robert H. Jackson (1892-1954), U. S. Supreme Court Justice Source: Atlantic Monthly, January 1955 http://quotes.liberty-tree.ca/quote_blog/Robert.Jackson.Quote.A09D "Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only a unanimity at the graveyard." Justice Robert H. Jackson, U. S. Supreme Court Justice http://quotes.liberty-tree.ca/quote_blog/Robert.Jackson.Quote.A09F


The right to be let alone is indeed the beginning of all freedoms. William O. Douglas Source:http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/w/william_o_douglas.html "Freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order." Justice Robert H. Jackson, (1892-1954), U. S. Supreme Court Justice Source: West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 1943 "The price of freedom of religion, or of speech, or of the press, is that we must put up with, and even pay for, a good deal of rubbish." Justice Robert H. Jackson (1892-1954) U. S. Supreme Court Justice http://quotes.liberty-tree.ca/quote_blog/Robert.Jackson.Quote.A0A1

Freedom Of Speech

Persecution for the expression of opinions...seems to me to be perfectly logical. If you have no doubt of your premises of your power and want a certain result with all your heart, you naturally express your wishes in law and keep away opposition... But when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faults, they may come to beieve even more that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas--That the best test of truth is the power of thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution. It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment.... I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attemps to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Abrams V US 1919 Free speech is not to be regulated like diseased cattle and impure butter. The audience that hissed yesterday may applaud today, even for the same performance. William O. Douglas Source:http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/w/william_o_douglas.html The very reason for the First Amendment is to make the people of this country free to think, speak, write and worship as they wish, not as the Government commands. Hugo L. Black IAM v. Street, 367 US 1961 "An unconditional right to say what one pleases about public affairs is what I consider to be the minimum guarantee of the First Amendment." Justice Hugo L. Black Source: New York Times Company vs. Sullivan, 1964 If there is a bedrock principle of the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable." Justice William J. Brennan Source: Texas vs. Johnson, 1989 http://quotes.liberty-tree.ca/quote_blog/William.Brennan.Quote.8F32 One who comes to the Court must come to adore, not to protest. That's the new gloss on the 1st Amendment. William O. Douglas Source:http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/w/william_o_douglas.html Fear of serious injury cannot alone justify suppression of free speech and assembly. Men feared witches and burned women. It is the function of speech to free men from the bondage of irrational fear. Louis D. Brandeis Source:http://www.memorablequotations.com/brandeis.htm If the First Amendment means anything, it means that a state has no business telling a man, sitting in his own house, what books he may read or what films he may watch. Our whole constitutional heritage rebels at the thought of giving government the power to control men's minds. Thurgood Marshall Source:http://www.memorablequotations.com/marshall.htm "Freedom of expression is the well-spring of our civilization... The history of civilization is in considerable measure the displacement of error which once held sway as official truth by beliefs which in turn have yielded to other truths. Therefore the liberty of man to search for truth ought not to be fettered, no matter what orthodoxies he may challenge." Felix Frankfurter, (1882-1965) U.S. Supreme Court Justice Source: Concurring Opinion, Dennis et al. v. U.S. (1951) http://liberty-tree.ca/qb/Felix.Frankfurter.Quote.3FFC "[A] function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve it's high purpose when it indices a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with things as they are, or even stirs people to anger. Speech is often provocative and challenging. It may strike at prejudices and preconceptions and have profound unsettling effects as it presses for understanding." Potter Stewart Source:Free Speech and Political Protest [Marvin Summers], 1967 "The censor’s sword pierces deeply into the heart of free expression." Earl Warren (1891-1974) Chief Justice, U. S. Supreme Court Source: Times Film Corps. vs. City of Chicago, 23 January 1961 "The struggle is always between the individual and his sacred right to express himself and... the power structure that seeks conformity, suppression and obedience." Justice William O. Douglas http://quotes.liberty-tree.ca/quote_blog/William.O..Douglas.Quote.390A "The constitutional right of free speech has been declared to be the same in peace and war. In peace, too, men may differ widely as to what loyalty to our country demands, and an intolerant majority, swayed by passion or by fear, may be prone in the future, as it has been in the past, to stamp as disloyal opinions with which it disagrees." Justice Louis D. Brandeis Source: Schaefer v. U. S., 1920 "The greater the importance to safeguarding the community from incitements to the overthrow of our institutions by force and violence, the more imperative is the need to preserve the constitutional rights of free speech, free press and free assembly in order to maintain the opportunity for free political discussion." Justice Charles Evans Hughes Source: DeJonge v. Oregon, 1937


No generalization is wholly true, not even this one. Oliver Wendell Holmes


"Young man, the secret of my success is that at an early age I discovered that I was not God." Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (1841-1935) US Supreme Court Justice, also known as "The Great Dissenter" Source: On his 90th birthday to a journalist (8 March 1931), as quoted in Information 2000: Library and Information Services for the 21st Century, Vol. 1991, Part 2 (1992) by the U.S. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science, p. 272.


Government is not an exact science. Louis Dembitz Brandeis Source:Truax v. Corrigan

Government of Laws

It is not enough to know that the men applying the standard are honorable and devoted men. This is a government of laws, not of men....It is not without signnificance that most of the provisions of the Bill of Rights are procedural. It is procedure that spells much of the diffenence between rule by law and rule by whim or caprice. William O. Douglas Source:Anti-Fascist Refugee Comm v. McGrath


Most of the things we do, we do for no better reason than that our fathers have done them or our neighbors do them, and the same is true of a larger part than what we suspect of what we think. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Source:http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/o/ oliver_wendell_holmes_jr.html


The best of wages will not compensate for excessively long working hours which undermine heath. Louis Dembitz Brandeis Source:Brandeis:The Personal History of an American Ideal


History, in illuminating the past, illuminates the present, and in illuminating the present, illuminates the future. Benjamin Cardozo Source:http://www.memorablequotations.com/cardozo.htm


"Ideas are indeed the most dangerous weapons in the world. Our ideas of freedom are the most powerful political weapons man has ever forged." William O. Douglas (1898-1980), U. S. Supreme Court Justice Source: An Almanac of Liberty, 1954 "Every idea is an incitement. It offers itself for belief, and if believed it is acted on unless some other belief outweighs it or some failure of energy stifles the movement at its birth. The only difference between the expression of an opinion and an incitement is the speaker’s enthusiasm for the result." Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., also known as "The Great Dissenter" Source: Gitlow v United States, 1922

Initiative and Judgment

Organization can never be a substitute for initiative and for judgment. Louis Dembitz Brandeis Source:Business--A Profession


"A moment's insight is sometimes worth a life's experience." Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. "The Great Dissenter" http://quotes.liberty-tree.ca/quote_blog/Oliver.Holmes,.Quote.2B13


Method is much, technique is much, but inspiration is even more. Benjamin N. Cardozo Source:Law and Literature


"The jury has the right to judge both the law as well as the fact in controversy." -- John Jay (1745-1829) first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, First President of the United States - preceding George Washington, one of three men most responsible for the US Constitution Source: Georgia v. Brailsford, 1794

Jury Duty

Jury service is a duty as well as a privelege of citizenship; it is a duty that cannot be skirked on a plea of inconvenience or decreased earning power. Frank Murphy Source:Thiel v. Southern Pacific Co, 1945

Ken Starr

"If the prosecutor is obliged to choose his case, it follows that he can choose his defendants. Therein is the most dangerous power of the prosecutor: that he will pick people he thinks he should get, rather than cases that need to be prosecuted. With the law books filled with a great assortment of crimes, a prosecutor stands a fair chance of finding at least a technical violation of some act on the part of almost anyone. In such a case, it is not a question of discovering the commission of a crime and then looking for the man who has committed it, it is a question of picking the man and then searching the law books, or putting investigators to work, to pin some offense on him. It is in this realm -- in which the prosecutor picks some person whom he dislikes or desires to embarrass, or selects some group of unpopular persons and then looks for an offense, that the greatest danger of abuse of prosecuting power lies. It is here that law enforcement becomes personal, and the real crime becomes that of being unpopular with the predominant or governing group, being attached to the wrong political views, or being personally obnoxious to or in the way of the prosecutor himself." Justice Robert H. Jackson (1892-1954), U. S. Supreme Court Justice


Knowledge and timber shouldn't be much used till they are seasoned. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Source:The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table

Labor Unions

In present conditions a workman may not unnaturally believe that only by belonging to a union can he secure a contract that shall be fair to him....If that belief, whether right or wrong, may be held by a reasonable man, it seems to me that it may be enforced by law in order to establish the equality of position...in which liberty of contract begins. Whether in the long run it is wise for the working men to enact legislation of this sort is not my concern, but I am strongly of the opinion that there is nothing in the Constitution of the United States to prevent it... Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Coppage V State of Kansas 1915 Long ago we stated the reason for labor organizations. We said that union was essential to give laborers opportunity to deal on an equality with their employer. US Supream Court Source:Jones & Laughlin Steel Co. 1937


A law embodies beliefs that have triumphed in the battle of ideas. Oliver Wendell Holmes Source:The Supreme Court in American History pp109

Law and Justice

"This is a court of law, young man, not a court of justice." Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Source:http://en.thinkexist.com/quotation/ This_is_a_court_of_law-young_man-not_a_court_of/148879.html Common sense often makes good law. William O. Douglas Source:http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/w/william_o_douglas.html

Law and the Court

It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is. John Marshall 1803 Source:The Supreme Court in American History, 1965


The reward of the general is not a bigger tent, but command. Oliver Wendell Holmes Sourec:Letter to Charles Bunn, 1917


Liberty implies the absence of arbitary restraint, not immunity from reasonable regulations... Charles Evans Hughes, 1937 Source:The Supreme Court in American History, 1965 "The great ideals of liberty and equality are preserved against the assaults of opportunism, the expediency of the passing hour, the erosion of small encroachments, the scorn and derision of those who have no patience with general principles." -- Justice Benjamin Cardozo (1870-1938) U.S. Supreme Court Justice Source: Nature of Judicial Process, 1921 http://quotes.liberty-tree.ca/quote_blog/Benjamin.Cardozo.Quote.9E1D

Life Of The Law

The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Source:The Common Law


Litigation is the pursuit of practical ends, not a game of chess. Felix Frankfurter Source:Indianapolis v. Chase Nation Bank


"There can be no assumption that today’s majority is “right” and the Amish or others like them are “wrong.” A way of life that is odd or even erratic but interferes with no right or interests of others is not to be condemned because it is different." -- Justice Warren E. Burger Chief Justice, U. S. Supreme Court Source: Wisconsin v. Yoder, 15 May 1972 http://quotes.liberty-tree.ca/quote_blog/Warren.Burger.Quote.8F45


Marriage is a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred. William O. Douglas Source:http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/w/william_o_douglas.html


"Ultimately all the questions boil down to one - Whether we as a people will try fearfully and futilely to preserve democracy by adopting totalitarian methods, or whether in accordance with out traditions, and our constitution we will have the confidence and courage to be free." Hugo L. Black Barenblatt V US 1959 "The mere summoning of a witness and compelling him to testify against his will, about his beliefs, expressions or associations, is a measure of governmental interference. And when those forced revelations concern maters that are unorthodox, unpopular, or even hateful to the general public, the reactions in the life of the witness may be disastrous." Earl Warren, Chief Justice Source: U. S. Supreme Court

Military Necessity

"The concept of military necessity is seductively broad, and has a dangerous plasticity. Because they invariably have the visage of overriding importance, there is always a temptation to invoke security "necessities" to justify an encroachment upon civil liberties. For that reason, the military-security argument must be approached with a healthy skepticism." -- Justice William J. Brennan (1906-1997) U. S. Supreme Court Justice Source: Brown v. Glines, 444 US 348 (1980)


"The mark of a truly civilized man is confidence in the strength and security derived from the inquiring mind." Felix Frankfurter, (1882-1965) U.S. Supreme Court Justice Source: Dennis v. United States, 1950


Morality is not merely different in different communities. Its level is not the same for all the component groups within the same community. Benjamin Nathan Cordozo Source:Paradoxes of Legal Science


Fresh news is got only by enterprise and expense. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. INS v. AP (1918)


"The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins." Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841-1935) US Supreme Court Justice, also known as "The Great Dissenter" http://quotes.liberty-tree.ca/quote_blog/Oliver.Wendell.Holmes.Quote.717C


"Our institutions were not devised to bring about uniformity of opinion; if they had we might well abandon hope. It is important to remember, as has well been said, 'the essential characteristic of true liberty is that under its shelter many different types of life and character and opinion and belief can develop unmolested and unobstructed.'" Justice Charles Evans Hughes (1862-1948) Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Source: U. S. Supreme Court, Forbes Magazine, 1 November 1957


As nightfall does not come at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there's a twilight where everything remains seemingly unchanged, and it is in such twilight that we must be aware of change in the air, however slight, lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness. William O. Douglas Source:http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/w/william_o_douglas.html

Patriot Act

The Constitution of the United States is a law for rulers and the people, equally in war and in peace. Justice David Davis 1866 Source:The Supreme Court in American History, 1965


This government. . . can exercise only the powers granted to it. John Marshall 1819 Source:The Supreme Court in American History, 1965


Deep-seated preferences can not be argued about. Oliver Windell Holmes Source:Natural Law


The Press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of the government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government. And paramount amoung the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people. Hugo L. Black New York Times V US (Pentagon Paper)


We deal with a right of privacy older than the Bill of Rights-older than our political parties, older than our school system. William O. Douglas Source:http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/w/william_o_douglas.html


The history of American freedomis , in no small measure, the history of procedure. Felix Frankfurter Source:Malinski v. New York


Progress flows only from struggle. Louis D. Brandeis Source:Business--A Profession

Public Opinion

"Judges ... rule on the basis of law, not public opinion, and they should be totally indifferent to pressures of the times." Justice Warren E. Burger Chief Justice, U. S. Supreme Court Source: Christian Science Monitor, 11 February 1987

Putting Minds Together

The output of a multitude of minds must be expected to contain its proportion of vagaries. Benjamin N. Cardozo Source:The Grouth of the Law


If discrimination based on race is constitutionally permissible when those who hold the reins can come up with "compelling" reasons to justify it, then constitutional guarantees acquire an accordionlike quality. William O. Douglas Source:http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/w/william_o_douglas.html

Real Rulers In Washington

"The real rulers in Washington are invisible and exercise power from behind the scenes." Justice Felix Frankfurter (1882-1965) U.S. Supreme Court Justice http://quotes.liberty-tree.ca/quote_blog/Felix.Frankfurter.Quote.7DF7

Religious Zealots

"In our country are evangelists and zealots of many different political, economic and religious persuasions whose fanatical conviction is that all thought is divinely classified into two kinds -- that which is their own and that which is false and dangerous." Justice Robert H. Jackson Source:http://quotes.liberty-tree.ca/quote_blog/Robert.Jackson.Quote.5FB2

Required Flag Saluting

"Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard. It seems trite but necessary to say that the First Amendment to the Constitution was designed to avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings. If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no offical, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein." Robert H. Jackson Supreme Court Justice 1942 West Vir. Board of Education V Barnette


"The right to revolt has sources deep in our history." William O. Douglas, Supreme Court Justice Source: An Almanac of Liberty, 1954

Right Stuff

Efficiency and economy imply employment of the right instrument and material as well as their right use in the right manner. Louis Dembitz Brandeis Source:St. Louis & Ohio Rail v. US

Right to Defy

"The right to defy an unconstitutional statute is basic in our scheme. Even when an ordinance requires a permit to make a speech, to deliver a sermon, to picket, to parade, or to assemble, it need not be honored when it's invalid on its face." Justice Potter Stewart (1915-1985), U. S. Supreme Court Justice Source: Walker v. Birmingham, 1967


The world's great men have not commonly been great scholars, nor its great scholars great men. Oliver Wendell Holms Source:The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table

Secret Police

"I cannot say that our country could have no secret police without becoming totalitarian, but I can say with great conviction that it cannot become totalitarian without a centralized national police." Justice Robert H. Jackson (1892-1954), U. S. Supreme Court Justice Source: The Supreme Court in the American System of Government, 1955


Nothing is settled until it is settled right. Louis D. Brandeis Source:Brandeis: A Free Man's Life


"My faith is that the only soul a man must save is his own." -- Justice William O. Douglas (1898-1980), U. S. Supreme Court Justice http://quotes.liberty-tree.ca/quote_blog/William.O..Douglas.Quote.32E9

State and Federal Governments

"That distinct sovereignties could exist under one government, emanating from the same people, was a phenomenon in the political world, which the wisest statesmen in Europe could not comprehend; and of its practicability many in our own country entertained the most serious doubts. Thus far the friends of liberty have had great cause of triumph in the success of the principles upon which our government rests. But all must admit that the purity and permanency of this system depend on its faithful administration. The states and the federal government have their respective orbits, within which each must revolve. If either cross the sphere of the other, the harmony of the system is destroyed, and its strength is impaired. It would be as gross usurpation on the part of the federal government, to interfere with state rights, by an exercise of powers not delegated; as it would be for a state to interpose its authority against a law of the union." Justice John McLean (1785-1861) U.S. Congressman for Ohio (1813-16), U.S. Postmaster General, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court (1830-61), presidential candidate for the Whig and Republican parties Source: Craig v. Missouri, 4 Peters 410 (1830) [29 U.S. 410, 464]

Tact, Respect, and Generosity

Tact, respect, and generosity toward variant views will always commend themselfs to those charged with the duties of legislation so as to achieve a maximum of good will and to require a minimun of unwilling submission to a general law. Felix Frankfurter Source:W. Vir. State Board Of Ed. v. Barnette (1942)


"The power to tax involves the power to destroy." Justice John Marshall Source:http://quotes.liberty-tree.ca/quote_blog/John.Marshall.Quote.B6C6


Temptation is not always invitation. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Source:Erie Railroad v. Hilt

Test Oath

"[We] cannot say that a failure, because of religious scruples to assume a particular physical position and to repeat the words of a patriotic formula creates a grave danger to the nation. Such a statutory exaction is a form of a test oath, and a test oath has always been abhorent in the United States." Hugo L. Black Barenblatt V US 1959

The Decision

General propositions do not decide concrete cases. The decision will depend on a judgment or intuition more subtle than any articulate major premise. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Source:Lochner v. New York

Thought Control

"The priceless heritage of our society is the unrestricted constitutional right of each member to think as he will. Thought control is a copyright of totalitarianism, and we have no claim to it." Justice Robert H. Jackson Source: US Supreme Court, American Communications Association v. Douds, 339 U.S. 382, 442 (1950)


Put not your trust in money, but put your money in trust. Oliver Wendell Holmes Source:The Autocrat of the Breakfast Table

Unconstitutional Law

[Justices do not have the right to declare] "a law unconstitutional simply becasue they considered a law unwise." [The court] "is not to decide whether the view taken by the legislature is a wise view, but whether a body of men could reasonable hold such a view." Lousis D. Brandeis Source:The Supreme Court and It's great Justicies When a legislature undertakes to proscribe the exercise of a citizen's constitutional rights it acts lawlessly and the citizen can take matters into his own hands and proceed on the basis that such a law is no law at all. William O. Douglas Source:http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/w/william_o_douglas.html "... any broad unlimited power to hold laws unconstitutional because they offend what this Court conceives to be the 'conscience of our people' ... was not given by the Framers, but rather has been bestowed on the Court by the Court." -- Justice Hugo L. Black (1886-1971) US Supreme Court Justice http://quotes.liberty-tree.ca/quote_blog/Hugo.Black.Quote.D37D


"The great and invigorating influences in American life have been the unorthodox: the people who challenge an existing institution or way of life, or say and do things that make people think." William O. Douglas (1898-1980), U. S. Supreme Court Justice Source: Interview, 1958

Unwritten Amenities

"These unwritten amenities have been in part responsible for giving our people the feeling of independence and self-confidence, the feeling of creativity. These amenities have dignified the right of dissent and have honored the right to be nonconformists and the right to defy submissiveness. They have encouraged lives of high spirits rather than hushed, suffocating silence." -- Justice William O. Douglas (1898-1980), U. S. Supreme Court Justice Source: Papachristou v. City of Jacksonville (1972)


Value has been defined as the ability to command the price. Louis Dembitz Brandeis Source:St. Louis & Ohio RR v. US


"Particularly when the war power is invoked to do things to the liberties of people, or to their property or economy that only indirectly affect conduct of the war and do not relate to the engagement of the war itself, the constitutional basis should be scrutinized with care. ... I would not be willing to hold that war powers may be indefinitely prolonged merely by keeping legally alive a state of war that had in fact ended. I cannot accept the argument that war powers last as long as the effects and consequences of war for if so they are permanent -- as permanent as the war debts." -- Justice Robert H. Jackson "We must make clear to the Germans that the wrong for which their fallen leaders are on trial is not that they lost the war, but that they started it...No grievances or policies will justify resort to aggressive war. It is utterly renounced and condemned as an instrument of policy." -- Justice Robert H. Jackson (1892-1954), U. S. Supreme Court Justice Source: U.S. Supreme Court, 08 Dec 1945, and reprinted in Precision-Guided Coverage, Molly Ivins, May 2003

Well Written Law

A body of law is more rational and more civilized when every rule it contains is referred arrticulately and definitely to an end which it subserves and the grounds for desiring that end are stated, or are ready to be stated in words. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Source:Wigmore in Evidence


It is desirable that criminals should be detected, and to that end all available evidence should be used....We have to choose, and for my part, I think it less evil that some criminals should escape than that the goverment should play an ignoble part. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Olmstead V U.S. 1928


A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanging, it is the skin of a living thought and may vary greatly in colour and content according to the circumstances and time in which it is used. Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Source:http://www.quotationspage.com/quotes/Oliver_Wendell_Holmes_Jr./ The logic of words should yield to the logic of realities. Louis Dembitz Brandeis Sourec:DeSanto v. Pennsylvania It is the part of wisdom, particulary for judges, not to be victimized by words. Felix Frankfuter Source:Shapiro v. US (1948)

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