- Learned Hand
name = Learned Hand
Judgeof United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
termstart = 1924
termend = 1961
Julius Marshuetz Mayer
birthdate = January 27, 1872
Albany, New York
Harold Raymond Medina
Judgeof United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
termstart2 = 1909
termend2 = 1924
William Howard Taft
predecessor2 = (none, new seat)
Thomas D. Thacher
deathdate = August 18, 1961 (aged 89)
New York City
spouse = Frances Amelia Fincke Hand
children = Mary Deshon, Frances, and Constance
religion = Protestant as a youth, Agnostic as an adult
Billings Learned Hand (January 27, 1872 – August 18, 1961) was an influential
United States judgeand judicial philosopher. He served on the Southern District Court of New York and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Hand has reportedly been quoted more often than any other lower-court judge by legal scholars and by the Supreme Court of the United States.
Born and raised in
Albany, New York, Hand majored in philosophyat Harvard Collegeand graduated with honors from Harvard Law School. After a short career as a lawyer in Albany and New York City, he was appointed as a Federal District Judge in Manhattanin 1909 at the age of 37. The profession suited his detached and open-minded temperament, and his decisions soon won him a reputation for craftsmanship and authority. Between 1909 and 1914, under the influence of Herbert Croly's social theories, Hand supported New Nationalism. He ran unsuccessfully as the Progressive Party's candidate for Chief Judgeof the New York Court of Appealsin 1913, but withdrew from active politics shortly afterwards. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidgepromoted Hand to the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which he went on to lead as the Senior Circuit Judge (later retitled Chief Judge) from 1939 until his semi-retirement in 1951. Scholars have recognized the Second Circuit under Hand as one of the finest appeals courts in the country's history. Friends and admirers often lobbied for Hand's promotion to the Supreme Court, but circumstances and his political past conspired against his appointment.
Hand possessed a gift for language, and his writings are admired as legal literature. [Harvnb|Schick|1970|pp=188–89] He rose to fame outside the legal profession in 1944 after giving a short address in
Central Parkthat struck a popular chord in its appeal for tolerance. During a period when a hysterical fear of subversiondivided the nation, Hand was viewed as a liberal defender of civil liberties. A collection of Hand's papers and addresses, published in 1952 as "The Spirit of Liberty", sold well and won him new admirers. Even after he criticized the civil-rights activism of the 1950s Warren Court, Hand retained his popularity.
Hand is also remembered as a pioneer of modern approaches to statutory interpretation. His decisions in specialist fields, such as patents,
torts, admiralty law, and antitrust law, set lasting standards for craftsmanship and clarity. On constitutional matters, he was, unusually, both a political progressive and an advocate of judicial restraint. He believed in the protection of free speech and in bold legislation to address social and economic problems. He argued, however, that the United States Constitutiondoes not empower courts to overrule the legislation of elected bodies, except in extreme circumstances. Instead, he advocated the "combination of toleration and imagination that to me is the epitome of all good government". [Harvnb|Dworkin|1996|p=342. Quoted from Hand's 1958 Holmes Lectures.]
Billings Learned Hand was born on January 27, 1872, in Albany,
New York, the second and last child of Samuel and Lydia Hand (née Learned). His mother's family traditionally used surnames as given names, and Hand was called after an uncle and grandfather, both named Billings Peck Learned. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=3–5] The Hands were a prominent family with a tradition of activism in the Democratic Party, and Hand grew up in comfortable circumstances on Albany's main residential street. The family had an "almost hereditary" attachment to the legal profession, [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=3, 7, 40; Harvnb|Griffith|1973|p=3] and has been described as "the most distinguished legal family in northern New York". [Charles E. Wyzanski, quoted in Harvnb|Schick|1970|p=13]
Samuel Hand was an appellate lawyer, [Harvnb|Schick|1970|p=13] who had risen rapidly through the ranks of an Albany-based law firm in the 1860s and by age 32 was the firm's leading lawyer. He also became the leader of the appellate bar and argued cases before New York States's highest court, the Court of Appeals, in "greater number and importance than those argued by any other lawyer in New York during the same period". [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=7] Samuel Hand was also a distant, intimidating figure, and Learned Hand later described his relations with his father as "not really intimate". [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=6] Samuel Hand died from cancer when Hand was 14. [Harvnb|Griffith|1973|p=3] Hand's mother thereafter promoted an idealized memory of her husband's professional success, intellectual abilities, and parental perfection, placing considerable pressure on Hand. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=6–9]
Lydia Hand was an involved and protective mother, who had been influenced by a Calvinist aunt as a child; and she passed on a strong sense of duty and guilt to her only son. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=10–11] Learned Hand eventually came to understand the influences of his parents as formative. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=4, 6, 11] After his father's death, he looked to religion to help him cope, writing to his cousin
Augustus Noble Hand: "If you could imagine one half the comfort my religion has given to me in this terrible loss, you would see that Christ never forsakes those who cling to him." The depth of Hand's early religious convictions was in sharp contrast to his later agnosticism. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=22]
Hand was beset by anxieties and self-doubt throughout his life, including
night terrors as a child. He later admitted he was "very undecided, always have been—a very insecure person, very fearful; morbidly fearful". [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=4] Especially after his father's death, he grew up surrounded by doting women—his mother, his aunt, and his sister Lydia (Lily), eight years his elder. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=4–5] Hand struggled with his name during his childhood and adulthood, worried that "Billings" and "Learned" were not sufficiently masculine. While working as a lawyer in 1899, he dropped "Billings", calling it "pompous". [Harvnb|Schick|1970|p=13]
—thought a "stuckup, snobbish school". [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=26]
Hand started at Harvard College in 1889, initially focusing on classical studies and mathematics as advised by his late father. At the end of his sophomore year, however, Hand changed direction. He embarked on courses in
philosophyand economics, studying under the eminent and inspirational philosophers William James, Josiah Royceand George Santayana. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=32–33]
At first, Hand found Harvard a difficult social environment. He was not selected for any of the social clubs that dominated campus life, and he felt this exclusion keenly. He was equally unsuccessful with the Glee Club and the football team, although he rowed for a time as a substitute for the rowing club. He later described himself as a "serious boy", a hard worker who did not smoke, drink, or consort with prostitutes. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=26–30, 76] He mixed more in his
sophomoreand senior years. He became a member of the Hasty Pudding Cluband appeared as a blond-wigged chorus girl in the 1892 student musical. He was also elected president of " The Harvard Advocate", a student literary magazine. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=30–31.]
Hand's studious ways resulted in his election to Phi Beta Kappa, an elite society of scholarly students. [Harvnb|Griffith|1973|p= 4] He graduated with highest honors, was awarded a master's as well as a bachelor's degree, [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=32] and was chosen by his classmates to deliver the Class Day oration at the 1893 commencement. [Harvnb|Griffith|1973|p=4] Family tradition and expectation suggested that he would study law after graduation. For a while, however, he seriously considered post-graduate work in philosophy, but he received no encouragement from his family or philosophy professors. Doubting himself, he then, as he put it, "drifted" towards law. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=40–43]
Hand's three years at
Harvard Law Schoolwere intellectually and socially stimulating. In his second year, he moved into a boarding house with a group of fellow law students who were to become close friends. They studied hard, and enjoyed discussing philosophy and literature and telling bawdy tales. Hand's intellectual reputation proved less of a hindrance at law school than it had as an undergraduate. He was elected to the Pow-Wow Club, in which law students practiced their skills in moot courts. He was also chosen as an editor of the " Harvard Law Review", although he resigned in 1894 because it took too much time from his studies. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=46–47]
During the 1890s, Harvard Law School was pioneering the
casebook methodof teaching introduced by Dean Christopher Langdell. [Harvnb|Dworkin| 1996|p=333] [Harvnb|Carrington|1999|p=206] Apart from Langdell, Hand's professors included Samuel Williston, John Chipman Gray, and James Barr Ames. Hand preferred those teachers who valued common sense and fairness and ventured beyond casebook study into the philosophy of law. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=47–50] His favorite professor was James Bradley Thayer, who taught him evidence during his second year and constitutional lawin his third. A man of broad interests, Thayer became a major influence on Hand's jurisprudence. He emphasized the law's historical and human dimensions rather than its certainties and extremes. He stressed the need for courts to exercise judicial restraintin deciding social issues. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=50–52; Harvnb|Griffith|1973|p=4]
Albany legal practice
Hand graduated from Harvard Law School in 1896 at the age of 24. He then returned to Albany to live with his mother and aunt, and started work for the
law firmin which an uncle, Matthew Hale, was a partner. This uncle's unexpected death a few months later obliged Hand to move to a new firm, where by 1899 he had become a partner. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=53–55] He had difficulty attracting his own clients, however, and found the work trivial and dull. [Harvnb|Carrington|1999|p=137; Harvnb|Schick|1970|p=14; Harvnb|Griffith|1973|pp=4–5] Much of his time was spent researching and writing briefs, with few opportunities for the appellate work he preferred. His early courtroom appearances, when they came, were frequently difficult, sapping his fragile self-confidence. He began to fear that he lacked the ability to think on his feet in court. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=56–59]
For two years, Hand tried to succeed as a lawyer by force of will, giving all his time to the practice. By 1900, he was deeply dissatisfied with his progress. For intellectual stimulation, he increasingly looked outside his daily work. He wrote scholarly articles, taught part-time at
Albany Law School, and joined a lawyers' discussion group in New York City. He also developed an interest in politics. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=59–61] Hand came from a line of loyal Democrats, but in 1898 he voted for Republican Theodore Rooseveltas governor of New York. Though he deplored Roosevelt's role in the "militant imperialism" of the Spanish–American War, he approved of the "amorphous mixture of socialism and laisser faire ["sic"] " in Roosevelt's campaign speeches. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=61–63] Hand caused further family controversy by registering as a Republican for the presidential election of 1900. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=64–65. This switch did not prove permanent: over the course of the years, Hand voted equally for Democratic and Republican candidates.] Life and work in Albany no longer fulfilled him; Hand began applying for jobs in New York City, despite family pressure not to move. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=68–70]
Marriage and New York
After reaching the age of 30 without developing a serious interest in a woman, Hand considered himself destined for bachelorhood. However, during a 1901 summer holiday in the
Québecresort of La Malbaie, he met 25-year-old Frances Fincke, a graduate of Bryn Mawr College. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=72] Though indecisive in most matters, he waited only a few weeks before proposing. The more cautious Fincke postponed her answer for almost a year, while Hand wrote to and occasionally saw her. He also began to look more seriously for work in New York City. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=78] The next summer, both Hand and Fincke returned to La Malbaie, and at the end of August 1902, they became engaged and kissed for the first time. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=79] They married on December 6, 1902, shortly after Hand had accepted a post with the Manhattanlaw firm of Zabriskie, Burrill & Murray. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=80–81] The couple had three daughters, Mary Deshon (born 1905), Frances (born 1907), and Constance (born 1909). Hand proved an anxious husband and father. He corresponded regularly with his doctor brother-in-law about initial difficulties in conceiving and about his children's illnesses. He himself survived pneumoniain February 1905, taking months to recover. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=172–174]
The family at first spent summers in
Mount Kisco, with Hand commutingat the weekends. After 1910, they rented summer homes in Cornish, New Hampshire, a writers' and artists' colony with a stimulating social scene. The Hands bought a house there in 1919, which they called "Low Court". [Harvnb|Griffith|1973|p= 7] Cornish was a nine-hour train journey from New York, and the couple were separated for long periods, with Hand able to join the family only for vacations. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=171–73] The Hands became close friends with Cornish resident Louis Dow, a Dartmouth Collegeprofessor. Frances Hand spent increasing amounts of time with Dow while her husband was in New York, and tension crept into the marriage. Despite speculation, however, there is no evidence that she and Dow were lovers. Hand regretted Frances' long absences and urged her to spend more time with him, but he maintained an enduring friendship with Dow. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=183–187] He blamed himself for a lack of insight into his wife's needs in the early years of the marriage, confessing his "blindness and insensibility to what you wanted and to your right to your own ways when they differed from mine". Fearing he might otherwise lose her altogether, Hand came to accept Frances' desire to spend time in the country with another man. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=187–188]
While staying in Cornish in 1908, Hand began a close friendship with the political commentator and philosopher
Herbert Croly. [Harvnb|Stettner|1993|p=25] At the time, Croly was writing his influential book " The Promise of American Life", in which he advocated a program of democratic and egalitarianreform under a national government with increased powers. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=190–193] When the book was published in November 1909, Hand sent copies to friends and acquaintances, including former president Theodore Roosevelt. [Harvnb|Stettner|1993|p=76] Croly's ideas had a powerful effect on Roosevelt's politics, influencing his advocacy of New Nationalismand the development of Progressivism. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=195, 198–202]
Hand remained disappointed in his progress at work. A move to the firm of Gould & Wilkie in January 1904 brought neither the challenges nor the financial rewards for which he had hoped. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=101–105] "I was never any good as a lawyer," he later admitted. "I didn't have any success, any at all." [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=107] In 1907, deciding that at the age of 35 success as a Wall Street lawyer was out of reach, he lobbied for a potential new federal judgeship in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, the federal court headquartered in Manhattan, involving himself briefly in local Republican politics to strengthen his political base. Congress did not create the new judgeship for which Hand had hoped in 1907, but when the post was finally created in 1909, Hand renewed his candidacy. With the help of the influential
Charles C. Burlingham, a senior New York lawyer and close friend, he gained the backing of Attorney General George W. Wickersham, who urged President William Howard Taftto appoint Hand. One of the youngest federal judges ever appointed, Hand took his judicial oath in April 1909. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=123–124, 128–133; Harvnb|Schick|1970|p=14; Harvnb|Griffith|1973|p=5]
Hand served as a
federal judgein the Southern District of New York from 1909 to 1924. He dealt with fields of common law, including torts, contracts, and copyright, and admiralty law. His initial unfamiliarity with some of these specialties, along with his limited courtroom experience, caused him anxiety at first. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=135–136] Most of Hand's early cases concerned bankruptcyissues, which he found tiresome, and patentlaw, which fascinated him. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp= 137–138, 144–145]
Hand also made some important decisions in the area of free speech. A frequently cited 1913 decision was "
United States v. Kennerley","United States v. Kennerley", 209 Fed. 119 (S.D.N.Y. 1913)] an obscenitycase concerning Daniel Carson Goodman's "Hagar Revelly", a social-hygiene novel about the "wiles of vice" that had caught the attention of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. [Harvnb|Boyer|2002|pp= 46–48] Hand allowed the case to go forward on the basis of the Hicklin test, which stemmed back to a seminal English decision of 1868, " Regina v. Hicklin". [Harvnb|Griffith|1973|p=154; Harvnb|Rabban|1999|p=146; "Regina v. Hicklin", LR 3 QB 360 (1868).] In his opinion, Hand recommended updating the law, arguing that the obscenity rule should not simply protect the most susceptible readers but should reflect community standards:
It seems hardly likely that we are even to-day so lukewarm in our interest in letters or serious discussion as to be content to reduce our treatment of sex to the standard of a child's library in the supposed interest of a salacious few, or that shame will for long prevent us from adequate portrayal of some of the most serious and beautiful sides of human nature. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=149–150]
Following his appointment as a judge, Hand became politically active in the cause of
New Nationalism. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=202] With reservations, he supported Theodore Roosevelt's return to national politics in 1911. He approved of the former president's plans to legislate on behalf of the underprivileged and to control corporations, as well as of his campaign against the abuse of judicial power. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=202–204; Harvnb|Schick|1970|p=14] Hand sought to influence Roosevelt's views on these subjects, both in person and in print, and wrote articles for Roosevelt's magazine "The Outlook". [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=206–210, 221–24] His hopes of swaying Roosevelt were nonetheless often dashed. Roosevelt's poor grasp of legal issues particularly exasperated Hand. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=212–225]
Despite overwhelming support for Roosevelt in the primaries and polls, the Republicans renominated President Taft. A furious Roosevelt bolted from the party to form the Progressive Party, nicknamed the "Bull Moose" movement. Most Republican progressives followed suit, including Hand. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=227–229] The splitting of the Republican vote, however, harmed both Roosevelt's and Taft's chances of winning the November 1912 presidential election. As Hand expected, Roosevelt lost to the Democratic Party's
Woodrow Wilson, though he polled more votes than Taft. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=232]
Hand took the defeat in his stride. He saw the election merely as a first step in a reform campaign for "real national democracy". [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=229–232] Though he had limited his public involvement in the election campaign, he now took part in planning a party structure. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=233. The new party structure incorporated
Jane Addams' Progressive Service, an educational organization aimed at spreading the reformist agenda to the public and to the legislators.] He also accepted the Progressive nomination for chief judge of New York Court of Appeals, then an elective position, in September 1913. [Harvnb|Griffith|1973|p=5] He refused to campaign, however, and later admitted that "the thought of harassing the electorate was more than I could bear". [Harvnb|Schick|1970|p=14] His vow of silence affected his showing, and he received only 13% of the votes. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=233–236] Hand came to regret his candidacy: "I ought to have lain off, as I now view it; I was a judge and a judge has no business to mess into such things." [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=237]
By 1916, Hand realized that the Progressive Party had no future, as the liberal policies of the Democratic government were making much of its program redundant. Roosevelt's decision not to stand in the 1916 presidential election dealt the party its death blow. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=239–241] Hand had already turned to an alternative political outlet in Herbert Croly's "
The New Republic", a liberal magazine he had helped launch in 1914. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=190, 241–244] He wrote a series of unsigned articles for the magazine on issues of social reform and judicial power; his only signed article was "The Hope of the Minimum Wage", published in November 1916, which called for laws to protect the underprivileged. Hand often attended staff dinners and meetings and became a close friend of the gifted young editor Walter Lippmann. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=190, 250–251] The outbreak of World War Ihad coincided with the founding of the magazine, whose pages often debated the events in Europe. "The New Republic" adopted a cautiously sympathetic stance towards the Allies which Hand supported wholeheartedly. After the United Statesentered the war in 1917, Hand considered leaving the bench to assist the war effort. Several possible war-related positions presented themselves. However, nothing came of them, aside from the position of chair of a committee on intellectual property law that suggested treaty amendments for the Paris Peace Conference. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=251–256]
Hand made his most memorable decision of the war in 1917 in "
Masses Publishing Co. v. Patten". [Harvnb|Schick|1970|p=176; Harvnb|Shanks|1968|pp=84–97; " Masses Publishing Co. v. Patten", 244 Fed. 535 (S.D.N.Y. 1917)] After the country joined the war, Congress had enacted an Espionage Act that made it a federal crimeto hinder the war effort. The first test of the new law came two weeks later when the postmaster of New York City refused to deliver the August issue of " The Masses", a self-described "revolutionary journal". The edition contained drawings, cartoons, and articles criticizing the government's decision to go to war. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=151, 157; Harvnb|Stone|2004|pp=157, 164–165]
The publishing company sought an
injunctionto prevent the ban, and the case came before Judge Hand. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=151–152] In July 1917, he ruled that the journal should not be barred from distribution through the mail. Though "The Masses" supported those who refused to serve in the forces, its text did not, in Hand's view, tell readers that they "must" violate the law. Hand argued that suspect material should be judged on what he called an "incitement test": only if its language directly urged readers to violate the law was it seditious—otherwise freedom of speech should be protected. [Harvnb|Schick|1970|pp=177–178; Harvnb|Rabban|1999|p=296; Harvnb|Stone|2004|p=177] This focus on the words themselves, rather than on their effect, was novel and daring; but Hand's decision was promptly stayed, and later overturned on appeal. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=152, 156–160; Harvnb|Stone|2004|pp=165–170] He always maintained that his ruling had been correct. Between 1918 and 1919, he attempted to convince Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, a man Hand greatly admired, of his argument. His efforts at first appeared fruitless, but Holmes' dissenting opinion in " Abrams v. United States" in November 1919 urged greater protection of political speech. [" Abrams v. United States", 250 U.S. 616 (1919).] Scholars have credited the critiques of Hand, Ernst Freund, and Zechariah Chafeefor the change in his views. [Harvnb|Irons|1999|pp=270, 275, 279–280; Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=161–167; Harvnb|Stone|2004|pp=198–207] In the long-term, Hand's decision proved a landmark in the history of free speech in the country. ["Judge Hand's injunction against the postmaster's exclusion of "The Masses" from the mails, though reversed on appeal, is seen, in retrospect, as the precursor of the federal court's present protection of freedom of the press." Judge Charles E. Wyzanski. Qtd. in Harvnb|Griffith|1973|p=6] In the late 1960s, the Supreme Court announced a standard for protecting free speech that in effect recognized his "Masses" opinion as law. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=151–152, 170]
Hand had known that ruling against the government might harm his prospects of promotion. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=155; Harvnb|Stone|2004|pp=165–166] By the time of the case, he was already the most senior judge of his district. The
United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuitoften summoned him to sit with that court to hear appeals, a task he found stimulating. In 1917, he lobbied for promotion to the Second Circuit, but the unpopularity of his "Masses" decision and his reputation as a liberal stood against him. He was passed over in favor of Martin T. Manton. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=161, 257–260, 270–71]
In the final months of the war, Hand increasingly supported President Woodrow Wilson's post-war foreign policy objectives. He believed the United States should endorse the
League of Nationsand the Treaty of Versailles, despite their flaws. This position estranged him from Croly and others at "The New Republic", who vehemently rejected both. Alienated from his old circle on the magazine and by the reactionary and isolationist mood of the country, Hand found himself politically homeless. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=263–266]
Between the wars
The next Second Circuit vacancy arose in 1921, but with the conservative
Warren G. Hardingadministration in power, Hand did not put himself forward. Hand's reputation was such that by 1923, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.wanted him on the Supreme Court, [Harvnb|White|2007 |p=214; Harvnb|Schick|1970|p=17] and in 1924 Harding's successor, Calvin Coolidge, appointed Hand to the Second Circuit. It was a sign of Hand's increased stature that figures such as Coolidge and Chief Justice William Howard Taft now endorsed him. Coolidge sought to add new blood to a senior judiciary that was seen as corrupt and inefficient. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=270–277; Harvnb|Schick|1970|p=15. Taft had once dismissed Hand as "a wild Roosevelt man and a Progressive".] In 1926 and 1927, the Second Circuit was strengthened by the appointments of Thomas Swanand Hand's cousin Augustus Noble Hand. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=281]
After the demise of the Progressive Party, Hand had withdrawn from party politics. [Harvnb|Dworkin|1996|p=333] He committed himself to public impartiality, despite his strong views on political issues. He remained, however, a strong supporter of freedom of speech, and any sign of the "merry sport of Red-baiting" troubled him. In 1920, for example, he wrote in support of New York mayor
Al Smith's veto of the anti-sedition Lusk Bills. The New York Assemblyhad approved these bills in a move to bar five elected Socialist Party legislators from taking their seats. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=344–352] In 1922, Hand privately objected to a proposed limit on the number of Jewish students admitted to Harvard College. "If we are to have in this country racial divisions like those in Europe," he wrote, "let us close up shop now". [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=362–368]
In public, Hand discussed issues of democracy, free speech, and toleration only in general terms. This discretion, plus a series of impressive speaking engagements, won him the respect of legal scholars and journalists, [Harvnb|Schick|1970|p=16] and by 1930 he was viewed as a serious candidate for a seat on the Supreme Court. His friend
Felix Frankfurter, then a Harvard Law School professor, was among those lobbying hard for Hand's appointment. President Herbert Hooverchose to bypass him, possibly for political reasons, and appointed Charles Evans Hughes, a previous Associate Justice and later Republican candidate for the presidency, as Chief Justice. With Hughes and another New Yorker, Harlan Fiske Stone, on the Court, the promotion of a third New Yorker was then seen as impossible (even though another highly regarded New York judge, Benjamin Cardozo, was appointed to the next vacant seat two years later). [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=418–428]
Hand had voted for Hoover in 1928, and he did so again in 1932; but in 1936, he voted for the Democrats and
Franklin D. Roosevelt, as a reaction to the economic and social turmoil that followed the Wall Street Crashof 1929. With the Great Depressionsetting in, Hand favored a policy of interventionist central government. He came to accept Frankfurter's view that redistribution of wealth was essential for economic recovery. Hoover resisted this approach, ruled by his party’s belief in individualism and free enterprise. Roosevelt, on the other hand, promised the voters a New Deal. They elected him on a platform of strong executive leadership and radical economic reform. Hand voted for Roosevelt again in 1940 and 1944, but he remained vigilant on the constitutional dangers of big government. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=416, 435–438] Like others, including Walter Lippmann, he sensed the dictatorial potential of New Deal policies. He had no hesitation in condemning Roosevelt's 1937 bill to expand the Supreme Court and pack it with New Dealers. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=457–460; Harvnb|Carrington|1999|p=141]
Hand was increasingly called upon to judge cases arising from the flood of New Deal legislation. The line between central government authority and local legislation particularly tested his powers of judgment. In 1935, the case of "United States v. Schechter" came before the Second Circuit. ["United States v. A. L. A. Schechter", 76 F.2d 617 (2d Cir. 1935)] Hand and his two colleagues had to judge whether a New York poultry firm had contravened New Deal legislation on unfair trade practices. They ruled that the
National Industrial Recovery Actdid not apply to the Schechter Poultry Corporation, which traded solely within the state. "The line is no doubt in the end arbitrary," Hand wrote in a memorandum, "but we have got to draw it, because without it Congress can take over all the government." [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=446–448, 451]
Hand became an acknowledged expert on New Deal statutes. He relished the challenge of interpreting such legislation, calling it "an act of creative imagination". [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=471; Harvnb|Schick|1970|p=163] In a 1933 broadcast, he explained the balancing act required of a judge in interpreting statutes:
On the one hand he must not enforce whatever he thinks best; he must leave that to the common will expressed by the government. On the other, he must try as best he can to put into concrete form what that will is, not by slavishly following the words, but by trying honestly to say what was the underlying purpose expressed. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=472]
World War II
When war broke out in Europe in 1939, Learned Hand adopted an anti-isolationist stance. He rarely spoke out publicly, not only because of his position but because he thought bellicosity unseemly in an old man. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=485] In February 1939, Hand became his court's senior circuit leader (in effect,
chief judge, although the title was not created until 1948). In this post, Hand succeeded Martin Manton, who had resigned after corruption allegations that later led to Manton's criminal conviction for bribery.Harvnb|Schick|1970|p=5] Not an admirer of Manton, Hand nonetheless testified at his trial that he had never noticed any corrupt behavior in his predecessor. For years afterwards, Hand, who had sat in two cases in which Manton accepted bribes, worried that he should have detected his colleague's corruption. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=503–509]
Hand still regarded his main job as judging. As circuit leader, he sought to free himself and his judges from too great an administrative burden. He concentrated on maintaining good relations with his fellow judges and on cleansing the court of patronage appointments. Despite the Manton case and constant friction between two of the court's judges,
Charles Edward Clarkand Jerome Frank, the Second Circuit under Hand earned a reputation as one of the best appeal courts in the country’s history. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=514–516, 521; Harvnb|Schick|1970|p=5] Hand's friends once again lobbied for him to fill a Supreme Courtvacancy in 1942, but Roosevelt did not appoint him. The president gave Hand's age as the reason, but philosophical differences with Hand may also have played a part. [Harvnb|Griffith|1973|pp= 9–10] Deeply disappointed at the time, Hand later regretted his ambition: "It was the importance, the power, the trappings of the God damn thing that really drew me on." [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=566–570; Harvnb|Dworkin|1996|p=335]
Hand was relieved when the United States entered the war in December 1941. He felt free to participate in organizations and initiatives connected with the war effort, and was particularly committed to programs in support of Greece and Russia. He backed Roosevelt for the 1944 election, partly because he feared a return to isolationism and the prolonging of the wartime erosion of civil liberties. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=535–541] In 1943, the
House Un-American Activities Committeeor "Dies Committee", for example, had aroused his fears with an investigation into "subversive activities" by government workers. Hand's contemporary at Harvard College, Robert Morss Lovett, was one of those accused, and Hand spoke out on his behalf. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=541–543. Lovett was removed from his government job by an Act of Congress, but in 1946 the Supreme Court ruled his dismissal unconstitutional as a bill of attainder.] As the end of the war approached, there was much talk of international peace organizations and courts to prevent future conflict, but Hand was skeptical. He was also out of step in condemning the Nuremberg war-crimes trials, which he saw as motivated by vengeance; he did not believe that "aggressive war" could be construed as a crime. "The difference between vengeance and justice," he wrote later, "is that justice must apply to all." [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=543–547]
Previously, Hand had not been well-known to the general public, but a short speech he made in 1944 won him fame and a national reputation for wisdom that lasted until the end of his life.Harvnb|Schick|1970|p=16] On May 21, 1944, he addressed almost one and a half million people in
Central Park, New York, at the annual "I Am an American Day" event, where newly naturalized citizens swore the Pledge of Allegiance. [Harvnb|Griffith|1973|pp=11–12] He stated that all Americans were immigrants who had come to America in search of liberty. Liberty, he said, was not located in America's constitutions, laws, and courts, but in the hearts of the people. In what would become the speech's most quoted passage, Hand asked:
What then is the spirit of liberty? I cannot define it; I can only tell you my own faith. The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias; the spirit of liberty remembers that not even a sparrow falls to earth unheeded; the spirit of liberty is the spirit of Him who, near two thousand years ago, taught mankind that lesson it has never learned, but has never quite forgotten; that there may be a kingdom where the least shall be heard and considered side by side with the greatest. [Qtd. in Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=549]
Extracts of the speech appeared in "
The New Yorker" on June 10. Several weeks later, " The New York Times" printed the whole text, quickly followed by "Life" magazine and " Reader's Digest".Harvnb|Schick|1970|p=16] Hand's message that liberty is safeguarded by everyday Americans struck a popular chord, and he suddenly found himself a folk hero. [Harvnb|Griffith|1973|pp=11–13] Though he enjoyed the acclaim, he thought it unmerited. His biographer Gerald Gunther, noting the paradox of the agnosticHand's use of religious overtones, suggests that the most challenging aspect of the speech was that the spirit of liberty must entertain doubt. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=549–552]
Learned Hand's 75th birthday in 1947 was much celebrated in the press and in legal circles. C. C. Burlingham, Hand's former sponsor, for example, called him "now unquestionably the first among American judges". [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=575] Hand remained modest in the face of such acclaim. He continued to work as before, combining his role as presiding judge of the Second Circuit with his engagement in political issues. In 1947, he voiced his opposition to a proposed "group libel" statute that would have banned
defamationof racial or minority groups. He argued that such a law would imply that intolerance could base itself upon evidence. The effect of the proposed prosecutions, he said, would be "rather to exacerbate than to assuage the feelings which lie behind the defamation of groups". [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=576–577]
In the postwar period, Hand shared the dismay of his compatriots about
Stalinismand the onset of the Cold War. At the same time, he was sensitive to the domestic problems created by the hysterical fear of international Communism. Already in 1947, he noted that "the frantic witch hunters are given free rein to set up a sort of Inquisition, detecting heresy wherever non-conformity appears". [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=578] [Harvnb|Stone|2004|p=398] Hand was distressed by the crusade against domestic subversion that became part of American public life after the war. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=581] He particularly despised the anti-Communist campaign of Senator Joseph McCarthythat began in 1950. From that time, the obsessive hunt for subversives in American society became known as McCarthyism. Though Hand expressed his horror of McCarthyism privately, he hesitated to do so publicly because cases arising from it were likely to come before his court. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=585] [Harvnb|Stone|2004|p=399]
During this period, Hand took part in three notable cases that posed a particular challenge to his impartiality on Cold War issues: "
United States v. Coplon", "United States v. Dennis", and " United States v. Remington". ["United States v. Coplon", 185 F.2d 629 (2d Cir. 1950); "United States v. Dennis", 183 F.2d. 201 (2d Cir. 1950); "United States v. Remington", 208 F.2d. 567 (2d Cir. 1950)] Department of Justice worker Judith Coplonhad been sentenced to 15 years in prison for stealing and attempting to pass on defense information. In 1950, her appealcame before a Second Circuit panel that included Learned Hand. It rested on her claim that her rights under the Fourth Amendment had been infringed by a warrantless search, and that details of illegal wiretapshad not been fully disclosed at her trial. Hand made it clear that Coplon was guilty of the charges. However, he rejected the trial judge's conclusion that a warrantless arrest had been justified. He ruled therefore that papers seized during the arrest had been inadmissable as evidence. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=592–597] The trial judge's failure to disclose all the wiretap records, Hand concluded, made a reversal of Coplon's conviction necessary. In his written opinion, Hand stated that " [F] ew weapons in the arsenal of freedom are more useful than the power to compel a government to disclose the evidence on which it seeks to forfeit the liberty of its citizens." [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=596; Harvnb|Griffith|1973|p=37] Many followers of the trial sent Hand hate mailfor his decision. By contrast, in the 1950 case "United States v. Dennis", Hand affirmed the convictions under the 1940 Smith Actof eleven leaders of the Communist Party of the United Statesfor subversion. He ruled that calls for the violent overthrow of the American government posed enough of a "probable danger" to justify the invasion of free speech. [Harvnb|Schick|1970|pp=176–181; Harvnb|Griffith|1973|pp=150–152; Harvnb|Irons|1999|pp=379–380] After the case, he was attacked from the opposite political direction for appearing to side with McCarthyism. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=598–599]
In 1953, Hand wrote a scathing dissent from a Second Circuit decision to affirm the
perjuryconviction of William Remington, a government economist accused of Communist sympathies and activities. In 1951, the same panel had overturned Remington's previous conviction for perjury, but in the appeal of the later case Hand was outvoted two to one. The prosecution produced stronger evidence against Remington this time, much of it obtained from his wife. Sentenced to three years imprisonment, Remington was murdered in November 1954 by three fellow inmates, who beat him over the head with a brick wrapped in a sock. According to Hand's biographer Gunther, "The image of Remington being bludgeoned to death in prison haunted Hand for the rest of his life." [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=624–625; Harvnb|Stone|2004|p=369]
Only after stepping down as a full-time judge in 1951 did Hand join the public debate on McCarthyism. Shortly after announcing his semi-retirement, he gave an unscripted speech that was published in "
The Washington Post", an anti-McCarthy newspaper.
[M] y friends, will you not agree that any society which begins to be doubtful of itself, in which one man looks at another and says: "He may be a traitor," in which that spirit has disappeared which says: "I will not accept that, I will not believe that—I will demand proof. I will not say of my brother that he may be a traitor," but I will say, "Produce what you have. I will judge it fairly, and if he is, he shall pay the penalties; but I will not take it on rumour. I will not take it on hearsay. I will remember that what has brought us up from savagery is a loyalty to truth, and truth cannot emerge unless it is subjected to the utmost scrutiny."—will you not agree that a society which has lost sight of that, cannot survive? [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=587]
Hand followed this up with an address to the Board of Regents of the
University of the State of New Yorkthe next year. Once again, his attack on McCarthyism won approval from many liberals. Asked to send a copy of his views to McCarthy, Hand replied that he had Richard Nixonin mind as well. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=588–589] Despite his concerns about Nixon as vice president, Hand voted for Dwight Eisenhowerin the 1952 election, later crediting Eisenhower with bringing about McCarthy's downfall in 1954. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=589–590]
emi-retirement and death
In 1951, Hand retired from "regular active service" as a federal judge. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp= 586–587, 639] He assumed
senior status, a form of semi-retirement, and continued to sit on the bench, with a considerable workload. [Harvnb|Schick|1970|p=15] The following year, he published "The Spirit of Liberty", a collection of papers and addresses that neither he nor publisher Alfred A. Knopfexpected to make a profit. In fact, the book earned admiring reviews, sold well, and made Hand more widely known.Harvnb|Schick|1970|p=16] A 1958 paperback edition sold even better, though Hand always refused royalties from material he never intended for publication. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=639–643]
Louis Dow had died in 1944, with Frances Hand at his side. The Hands' marriage then entered its final, happiest phase, in which they rediscovered their first love. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=570–571] Former
law clerkshave provided intimate details of Hand's character during the last decade of his life. Legal philosopher Ronald Dworkinrecalls that Hand, scrupulous about public economy, used to turn out the lights in all the offices at the end of each day. For the same reason, he refused Dworkin the customary month's paid vacation at the end of his service. Shortly afterward, to Dworkin's surprise, Hand wrote him a personal check for an extra month's pay as a wedding present. [Harvnb|Dworkin|1996|p=347] Hand was known for his explosive temper. Gunther remembers him throwing a paperweight in his direction which narrowly missed. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=620] Hand had a habit of turning his seat 180° on lawyers whose arguments annoyed him, and he could be bitingly sarcastic. In a typical memo, he wrote, "This is the most miserable of cases, but we must dispose of it as though it had been presented by actual lawyers." [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=300–302] Despite such outbursts, Hand was deeply insecure throughout his life, as he fully recognized. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=586] In his 80s, he still fretted about his rejection by the elite social clubs at Harvard College. He was convinced that his wife had rescued him from a life as a "melancholic, a failure [because] I should have thought myself so, and probably single and hopelessly hypochondriac". [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=84–85]
Learned Hand remained in good physical and mental condition for most of the last decade of his life. In 1958, he gave the Holmes Lectures at
Harvard Law School. These lectures proved to be Hand's last major critique of judicial activism, a position he had first taken up in 1908 with his attack on the "Lochner" ruling. [" Lochner v. New York", 198 U.S. 45 (1905)] They included a controversial attack on the Warren Court's 1954 decision in " Brown v. Board of Education", [" Brown v. Board of Education", 347 U.S. 483 (1954)] which in Hand's opinion had exceeded its powers by overruling Jim Crow segregation laws. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=654–657; Harvnb|Carrington|1999|pp=141–143] His views were widely criticized as reactionary and unfortunate, with most deploring the fact that they might encourage segregationists who opposed libertarian judicial rulings. Published as "The Bill of Rights", the lectures nevertheless became a national bestseller. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=662–664; Harvnb|Carrington|1999|pp=141–143; Harvnb|Griffith|1973|p=109]
By 1958, Hand was suffering from intense pain in his back and faced difficulty in walking. "I can just manage, with not infrequent pauses, to walk about a third of a mile," he wrote to
Felix Frankfurter. "My feet get very numb and my back painful. The truth is that 86 is too long." [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=674] Soon, he was obliged to use crutches, but he remained mentally sharp and continued to hear cases. In 1960, he worked briefly on President Dwight Eisenhower's "Commission on National Goals", but he resigned because "it involved more work than in the present state of my health I care to add to the judicial work that I am still trying to do". [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=676]
By June 1961, Hand was in a wheelchair. He joked that he felt idle because he had taken part in no more than about 25 cases that year, and that he would start another job if he could find one. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=677] The following month, he suffered a heart attack at Cornish. He was taken to St Luke's Hospital in New York City, where he died peacefully on August 18, 1961. "
The New York Times" ran a front-page obituary. " The Times" of London wrote: "There are many who will feel that with the death of Learned Hand the golden age of the American judiciary has come to an end." [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=679]
Hand's study of
philosophyat Harvard left a lasting imprint on his thought. He lost his faith in God as a student, and from that point on, he became a skeptic. ["Skepticism is my only gospel, but I don't want to make a dogma out of it." Qtd. in Lewis F. Powell, "Foreword", Harvnb|Gunther| 1994| p= x] Hand's view of the world has been identified as relativistic; in the words of scholar Kathryn Griffith, " [i] t was his devotion to a concept of relative values that prompted him to question opinions of the Supreme Court which appeared to place one value absolutely above the others, whether the value was that of individual freedom or equality or the protection of young people from obscene literature." [Harvnb|Griffith| 1973| p=vii] Hand instead sought objective standards in constitutional law, most famously in obscenityand civil libertiescases. [Harvnb| Gunther| 1994|p=405] He saw the Constitution and the law as compromises to resolve conflicting interests, possessing no moral force of their own. [Harvnb|Schick|1970| p=165; Harvnb|Dworkin|1996|p=12] This denial that any divine or natural rightsare embodied in the Constitution led Hand to a positivistic view of the Bill of Rights. [Harvnb|Griffith|1973|p=192; Harvnb|Dworkin|1996|p=342] In this approach, provisions of the Constitution, such as freedom of press, freedom of speech, and equal protection, should be interpreted through their wording and in the light of historical analysis rather than as "guides on concrete occasions". [Harvnb|Griffith| 1973| pp=131–140; Harvnb|White|2007|pp=217–218] For Hand, moral values were a product of their times and a matter of taste. [Harvnb|Griffith|1973|p=vii]
Hand's civil instincts were in tension with the duty of a judge to stay aloof from politics. [Harvnb|Schick|1970| p=186] As a judge he respected even bad laws; as a member of society he felt free to question the decisions behind legislation. In his opinion, members of a democratic society should be involved in legislative decision-making. [Harvnb|Griffith| 1973| pp=57–58; Harvnb|Dworkin|1996|pp=342-343] He therefore regarded toleration as a prerequisite of civil liberty. In practice, this meant that those who wish to promote ideas repugnant to the majority should be free to do so, within broad limits. ["The limits Hand placed on choice are similar to those
John Stuart Millplaced upon freedom when he denied the freedom to destroy liberty or the social and political structure which protected it." Harvnb|Griffith| 1973| p=60]
Hand's skepticism extended to his
political philosophy: he once described himself as "a conservative among liberals, and a liberal among conservatives". [Harvnb|Carrington|1999|p=138; Harvnb|Polenberg|1995|pp=296–301] As early as 1898, he rejected his family’s Jeffersonian Democratic tradition. [Harvnb| Gunther|1994|pp=62–63] His thoughts on liberty, collected in "The Spirit of Liberty" (1952), dissected the political philosophies of Thomas Jeffersonand Alexander Hamilton. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=193–194] Jefferson believed that each individual has a right to freedom, and that government, though necessary, threatens that freedom. In contrast, Hamilton argued that freedom depends on government: too much freedom leads to anarchyand the tyranny of the mob. [Harvnb|Griffith| 1973| p=65] Hand, who believed, following Thomas Hobbes, that the rule of lawis the only alternative to the rule of brutality, [Harvnb|Wyzanski| 1964|p=vi] leaned towards Hamilton. [Harvnb|Griffith| 1973| p=86. "Hamilton thought government consisted of combinations based on self-interest and that liberty did not rest on anarchy. Man required an ordered society, which included not only individual concerns but collective interests and which permitted human life to rise above that of the savage and made possible joint efforts and thus more comfort, security, and leisure for a better life. He believed that while Jacobins cried for liberty what they really wanted was to exercise their own tyranny over the mob. It appeared to Hand that history had proved Hamilton right."] Since the freedom granted to the American pioneers was no longer feasible, [Harvnb|Gunther| 1994| p=193] he accepted that individual liberty should be moderated by society’s norms. [Harvnb|Griffith| 1973| p=67] He nevertheless saw the liberty to create and to choose as vital to peoples' humanity and entitled to legal protection. He assumed the goal of human beings to be the "good life", defined as each individual chooses. [Harvnb|Griffith| 1973| p=190]
Between 1910 and 1916, Hand tried to translate his political philosophy into political action. Having read Croly's "
The Promise of American Life" and its anti-Jeffersonian plea for government intervention in economic and social issues, he joined the Progressive Party.Harvnb|Griffith| 1973| pp=56–57,60–63] However, he discovered that party politicking was incompatible not only with his role as a judge but with his philosophical objectivity. The pragmatic philosophy Hand had imbibed from William Jamesat Harvard required each matter to be individually judged on its merits, without partiality. In contrast, political action required partisanship and a choice between values.Harvnb|Griffith| 1973| pp=56–57,60–63] After 1916, Hand preferred to retreat from party politics into a detached skepticism. His belief in central planning resurfaced during the 1930s in his growing approval of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, as he once again—though this time as an observer—endorsed a program of government intervention. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=453] Hand was also an interventionist on foreign policy, supporting U.S. involvement in both world wars, and disdained isolationism. [Harvnb|Gunther| 1994| pp=368, 535]
Hand has been called one of the United States’ most significant judicial philosophers. [Harvnb|Schick|1970| p=191] A leading advocate of
judicial restraint, he took seriously Alexander Hamilton's formulation that "the judiciary ... may truly be said to have neither "force" nor "will", but merely judgement." [Harvnb|Griffith| 1973| p=83] Any judicial ruling that had the effect of legislating from the bench troubled Hand. In 1908, in his article "Due Process of Law and the Eight-Hour Day", he attacked the 1905 Supreme Court ruling in " Lochner v. New York", which had struck down a law prohibiting bakery staff from working more than ten hours a day. The Supreme Court went on to strike down a series of similar worker-protective laws on the grounds that they restricted freedom of contract. [Harvnb|Dworkin|1996|p=412] Hand regarded this principle as undemocratic. [Harvnb|Wyzanski| 1964|p=viii] "For the state to intervene", he argued, "to make more just and equal the relative strategic advantages of the two parties to the contract, of whom one is under the pressure of absolute want, while the other is not, is as proper a legislative function as that it should neutralize the relative advantages arising from fraudulent cunning or from superior force." [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=118–123]
The issue concerned Hand again during the New Deal period, when the Supreme Court repeatedly overturned or blocked Franklin D. Roosevelt's legislation. [Harvnb|Griffith| 1973| pp=18–19] As an instinctive democrat, Hand was appalled that an elected government should have its laws struck down in this way. He viewed it as a judicial "usurpation" for the Supreme Court to assume the role of a third chamber in these cases. [Harvnb|Horwitz|1995|p=264; Harvnb|Schick|1970| pp=162–163; Harvnb|Gunther| 1994|p=122] As far as he was concerned, the Constitution already provided a full set of checks and balances on legislation. [Harvnb|Griffith| 1973| pp=109, 211] Nevertheless, Hand did not hesitate to condemn Roosevelt's frustrated attempt to pack the Supreme Court in 1937, [Harvnb|Carrington|1999|p=141] which led commentators to warn of
totalitarianism. The answer, for Hand, lay in the separation of powers: courts should be independent and act on the legislation of elected governments. [Harvnb|Griffith|1973| pp=219–222]
Hand's democratic respect for legislation meant that he hardly ever struck down a law. [Harvnb|Schick|1970|p=164] Whenever his decisions went against the government, he based them only on the boundaries of law in particular cases. He adhered to the doctrine of presumptive validity, which assumes that legislators know what they are doing when they pass a law. [Harvnb|White|2007|p=235] Even when a law was uncongenial to him, or when it seemed contradictory, Hand set himself to interpret the
legislative intent. [Harvnb|Griffith|1973|p=112] Sometimes, however, he was obliged to draw the line between national and state laws, as in "United States v. Schechter Poultry". In this important case, he ruled that a New Deallaw on working conditions did not apply to a New York poultry firm that conducted its business only within the state.Harvnb|Griffith|1973|pp=112–113] Hand wrote in his opinion: "It is always a serious thing to declare any act of Congress unconstitutional, and especially in a case where it is part of a comprehensive plan for the rehabilitation of the nation as a whole. With the wisdom of that plan we have nothing whatever to do ..."
Hand also occasionally went against the government in the area of free speech. He believed that courts should protect the right to free speech even against the majority will. In Hand's view, judges must remain detached at times when public opinion is hostile to minorities and governments issue laws to repress those minorities. [Harvnb|Griffith|1973|pp=107–108] Hand was the first judge to rule on a case arising from the
Espionage Act of 1917, which sought to silence opposition to the war effort. In his decision on " Masses Publishing Co. v. Patten", he defined his position on political incitement:
Detestation of existing policies is easily transformed into forcible resistance of the authority which puts them in execution, and it would be folly to disregard the causal relation between the two. Yet to assimilate agitation, legitimate as such, with direct incitement to violent resistance, is to disregard the tolerance of all methods of political agitation which in normal times is a safeguard for free government. The distinction is not scholastic subterfuge, but a hard-bought acquisition in the fight for freedom. [Qtd. in Harvnb|Griffith|1973|p=144]
In the case of "United States v. Dennis" in 1950, Hand made a ruling that appeared to contradict his "Masses" decision. By then, a series of precedents had intervened, often based on
Oliver Wendell Holmes’s " clear and present danger" test, leaving him less room for maneuver. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=604–605; Harvnb|Stone|2004|pp=399–400] Hand felt he had "no choice" but to agree that threats against the government by a group of Communistswere illegal under the repressive Smith Actof 1940. [Harvnb|Griffith|1973|pp=146–153] In order to do so, he interpreted the "clear and present danger" in a new way. "In each case," he wrote, " [courts] must ask whether the gravity of the 'evil', discounted by its improbability, justifies such invasion of free speech as is necessary to avoid the danger." This formula allowed more scope for curbing free speech in cases where, as the government believed with Communism, the danger was grave, whether it was immediate or not. [Harvnb|Irons|1999|p=380; Harvnb|Schick|1970|pp=180–181; Harvnb|Stone|2004|p=400] Critics and disappointed liberals accused Hand of placing his concern for judicial restraint ahead of freedom of speech. [Harvnb|Dworkin| 1999|p=338–39] Hand confided to a friend that, if it had been up to him, he would "never have prosecuted those birds". [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=603]
In the opinion of Kathryn Griffith, "The importance of Learned Hand’s philosophy in terms of practical application to the courts lies generally in his view of the
pragmaticorigin of all law, but most specifically in his unique interpretation of the Bill of Rights." [Harvnb|Griffith| 1973| pp=192–193] Hand proposed that the Bill of Rights was not law at all but a set of "admonitory" principles to ensure the fair exercise of constitutional powers. [ Harvnb|Griffith| 1973|pp=130–138; Harvnb|Horwitz|1995|pp=262–263] He therefore opposed the use of its "due process of law" clauses as a pretext for national intervention in state legislation. He even advocated the removal of those clauses from the Constitution. In Hand's analysis, "due process" is no more than a stock phrase to cover a long tradition of common lawprocedure. [Harvnb|Griffith|1973|p=122] He contended that the term had inflated in scope beyond the meaning intended in the Bill of Rights. The result was the misuse of due process to invade rights that the Constitution was designed to protect. For Hand, a law passed by an elected body should be presumed to meet the test of due process. A court that decides otherwise and strikes down such a law is acting undemocratically. ["The statute may be far from the best solution of the conflict with which it deals; but if it is the result of an honest effort to embody that compromise or adjustment that will secure the widest acceptance and most avoid resentment it is 'Due Process of Law' and conforms to the First Amendment." From Hand's "The Bill of Rights." Qtd. in Harvnb|Schick|1970| p=163] Hand maintained this stance even when the Supreme Court struck down anti-liberal laws that he detested. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=383; Harvnb|Carrington|1999|p=140] His reasoning has never been widely accepted. Critics of his position included his colleague on the Second Circuit, Jerome Frank, who wrote: " [I] t seems to me that here, most uncharacteristically, Judge Hand indulges in a judgement far too sweeping, one which rests on a too-sharp either-or, all or nothing, dichotomy. ... Obviously the courts cannot do the whole job. But just as obviously, they can sometimes help to arrest evil popular trends at their inception." [Harvnb|Griffith| 1973|p=140]
Learned Hand wrote approximately four thousand judicial opinions during his career. Admired for their clarity and analytic precision, they have been quoted more often in Supreme Court opinions and by legal scholars than those of any other lower-court judge. [Harvnb|Stone|2004|p=200; Harvnb|Vile|2003|p=319] Hand's dissent in "
United States v. Kennerley""United States v. Kennerley", 209 Fed. 119 (S.D.N.Y. 1913)] and his ruling in " United States v. Levine" ["United States v. Levine", 83 F.2d 156 (2d Cir. 1936); see also " United States v. One Book Called Ulysses, 72 F2d 705 (2d Cir. 1934), originally judged by John M. Woolseyand affirmed by a Second Circuit panel including Hand.] have often been cited in obscenity cases. [Harvnb|Griffith| 1973| p=157; Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=149] Hand's view that literary works should be judged as a whole and in relation to their intended readership is now accepted in American law. His use of historical data to gauge legislative intenthas become a widespread practice. According to jurist Archibald Cox: "The opinions of Judge Hand have had significant influence both in breaking down the restrictions imposed by the dry literalism of conservative tradition and in showing how to use with sympathetic understanding the information afforded by the legislative and administrative processes." [Qtd. in Harvnb|Griffith| 1973| p=174] Hand's decision in the 1917 "Masses" case influenced Zechariah Chafee’s widely read book, "Freedom of Speech" (1920). In his dedication, Chafee wrote that Hand "during the turmoil of war courageously maintained the traditions of English-speaking freedom and gave it new clearness and strength for the wiser years to come". [Harvnb|Schick|1970| p=178]
Learned Hand played a key role in the interpretation of new
federal crimelaws in the period following the passing of the U.S. Criminal Code in 1909. [Harvnb|Griffith| 1973| p=35] In a series of judicial opinions and speeches, he opposed excessive concern for criminal defendants, and wrote "Our dangers do not lie in too little tenderness to the accused. Our procedure has always been haunted by the ghost of the innocent man convicted. ... What we need to fear is the archaic formalism and watery sentiment that obstructs, delays and defeats the prosecution of crime." He insisted that harmless trial errors should not automatically lead to a reversal on appeal. Hand balanced these views with important decisions to protect a defendant's constitutional rights concerning unreasonable searches, forced confessions and cumulative sentences. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|pp=304–305, 532–533; Harvnb|Judd|1947|pp=405–422]
His opinions have also proved lasting in fields of
commercial law. Legal students studying tortsoften encounter Hand's 1947 decision for " United States v. Carroll Towing Co.", [" United States v. Carroll Towing Co.", 159 F.2d 169 (2nd Cir. 1947)] which gave a formula for determining liability in cases of negligence. [Harvnb|Weinrib|1995|p=48. Hand proposed that the defendant's duty is a function of three variables: the probability of an accident's occurring, the gravity of loss if it should occur, and burden of adequate precautions. He expressed this in the algebraic formula: "If the probability be called P; the injury, L; and the burden, B; liability depends on whether B is less than L multiplied by P: ie., where B is less than PL." See also Calculus of negligence.] Hand's interpretations of complex Inland Revenuecodes, which he called "a thicket of verbiage", have been used as guides in the gray area between individual and corporate taxes. [Harvnb|Schick|1970|p=169] In an opinion sometimes seen as condoning tax avoidance, Hand stated in 1947 that "there is nothing sinister in so arranging one's affairs as to keep taxes as low as possible". [Harvnb|Griffith|1973|p=26] He was referring to reporting of individual income through corporate tax forms for legitimate business reasons. In tax decisions, as in all statutory cases, Hand studied the intent of the original legislation. His opinions became a valuable guide to tax administrators. [Harvnb|Griffith|1973|pp=26–30. See also Harvnb|Chirelstein|1968, "Learned Hand's Contribution to the Law of Tax Avoidance".]
Hand's landmark decision in "
United States v. Aluminum Company of America" in 1945 influenced the development of antitrust law. [Harvnb|Griffith|1973|pp=32–34; Harvnb|Schick|1970| pp=170–171, 188; "United States v. Aluminium Company of America", 148 F.2d 416 (2nd Cir. 1945). In this case, the Second Circuit took the place of the Supreme Court under a special statute, enacted after the Supreme Court lacked quorumin the case because of recusals. Hand's opinion set the standard for future rulings.] His decisions in patent, copyright, and admiralty cases have contributed to the development of law in those fields. [Harvnb|Schick|1970| p=188] Hand was also a founding member of the American Law Institute, where he helped produce clearer restatements of the law. [Harvnb|Griffith| 1973| pp=43–44; Harvnb|Gunther| 1994| pp=410–414] After Hand's lectures and publications became widely known, his influence reached courts throughout the country. [Harvnb|Schick|1970| p=189] On the occasion of his 75th birthday on January 27, 1947, " The Washington Post" reported: "He has won recognition as a judges’ judge. His opinions command respect wherever our law extends, not because of his standing in the judicial hierarchy, but because of the clarity of thought and the cogency of reasoning that shape them." [Qtd. in Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=574]
To the wider public, who knew little of his legal work, Hand was by then a folk hero. [Harvnb|Gunther|1994|p=550]
Social scientistMarvin Schick has pointed out that this mythic status is a paradox. [Harvnb|Schick|1970|p=12] Because Hand never served on the Supreme Court, the majority of his cases were routine and his judgments rooted in precedent. On Hand’s retirement in 1951, Felix Frankfurterpredicted that his "actual decisions will be all deader than the Dodo before long, as at least many of them are already". [Harvnb|Schick|1970| pp=154, 187] Working for a lower court, however, saved Hand from the taint of political influence that often hung over the Supreme Court. Hand's eloquence as a writer played a larger part in the spread of his influence than the substance of his decisions; and Schick believes that the Hand myth brushes over contradictions in his legal philosophy. Hand's reputation as a libertarian obscures the fact that he was cautious as a judge. Though a liberal, he argued for judicial restraint in interpreting the Constitution, and regarded the advancement of civil liberties as a task for the legislature, not the courts. In his 1958 Holmes Lectures, for example, he voiced doubts about the constitutionality of the Warren Court's civil rightsrulings. [Harvnb|Schick|1970| p=355; Harvnb|Auerbach|1977|p=259] This philosophy of judicial restraint failed to influence the decisions of the Supreme Court during Hand's lifetime and afterwards. Subsequent Supreme Court rulings that served to expand civil liberties have been almost universally praised. [Harvnb| Schick|1970| p=155; Harvnb|Dworkin|1996|pp=12–13, 343]
List of selected works
*citation | last=Hand |first = Learned | title = Liberty | place= Stamford, CT | publisher = Overbrook | year= 1941 | oclc= 2413475.
*citation | last=Hand |first = Learned | editors = Irving Dilliard | title = The Spirit of Liberty: Papers and Addresses of Learned Hand |place=New York | publisher= Knopf | year=1952 | oclc=513793.
*citation | last=Hand |first = Learned | title= The Bill of Rights | place=Cambridge, MA | publisher= Harvard University Press |year= 1958 |oclc = 418364 . (Oliver Wendell Holmes Lectures)
*citation | last=Hand |first = Learned | editors = Hershel Shanks | title= The Art and Craft of Judging: The Decisions of Judge Learned Hand | place= New York | publisher= Macmillan | year= 1968 | oclc= 436539 .
*citation |last= Auerbach|first= Jerold S.| title= Unequal Justice: Lawyers and Social Change in Modern America |place= Oxford|publisher= Oxford University Press |year= 1977 |isbn= 978-0195021707 .
*citation|last= Boyer |first= Paul S. |title= Purity in Print: Book Censorship in America from the Gilded Age to the Computer Age |place= Madison, WI |publisher= University of Wisconsin Press |year= 2002 |edition= 2nd |isbn= 978-0299175849
*citation | last= Carrington| first= Paul| title= Stewards of Democracy: Law as Public Profession | place= New York| publisher= Basic Books | year= 1999 |isbn= 978-0813368320 .
*citation | last = Chirelstein | first = Marvin |year= 1968 |date= January 1968 | title = Learned Hand’s Contribution to the Law of Tax Avoidance |url= http://www.jstor.org/stable/794940| journal = Yale Law Journal | volume = 77 | issue = 3 | pages = 440–474 | doi = 10.2307/794940. (
JSTORsubscription required for online access.)
*citation | last= Dworkin| first= Ronald| title= Freedom's Law: The Moral Reading of the American Constitution | place= Oxford| publisher= Oxford University Press | year= 1996 |isbn= 978-0198264705.
*citation | last= Griffith| first= Kathryn| title= Judge Learned Hand and the Federal Judiciary | place= Norman| publisher= Oklahoma University Press | year= 1973 |isbn= 978-0806110714 .
*citation | last = Gunther | first = Gerald | title = Learned Hand: The Man and the Judge | year = 1994 | publisher = Knopf | place = New York | isbn = 978-0394588070 .
*citation | last = Horwitz | first = Morton J. | title = The Transformation of American Law 1870–1960| year = 1995 | publisher = Oxford University Press| place = Oxford | isbn = 978-0195070248 .
*citation | last = Irons | first = Peter | title = A People's History of the Supreme Court | year = 1999 | publisher = Viking Penguin | place = New York | isbn = 978-0670870066 .
*citation | last = Judd | first = Orrin | year = 1947 |date= February 1947| title = Judge Learned Hand and the Criminal Law |url= http://www.jstor.org/stable/1335328| journal = Harvard Law Review | volume = 60 | issue = 3 | pages = 405–422. (
JSTORsubscription required for online access.)
*citation | last = Polenberg | first = Richard| title = 'A Conservative among Liberals, and a Liberal among Conservatives': The Life of Learned Hand |date= June 1995 |year= 1995 |journal= Reviews in American History |url= http://www.jstor.org/stable/2702701 |volume= 23 |issue=2 |pages=pp. 296–301 | doi = 10.1353/rah.1995.0051. (
JSTORsubscription required for online access.)
*citation | last = Rabban| first = David M. | title = Free Speech in Its Forgotten Years, 1870–1920 | year = 1999 | publisher = Cambridge University Press| place = Cambridge | isbn = 978-0521655378 .
*citation | last= Schick | first= Marvin | title= Learned Hand's Court | place= Baltimore | publisher= Johns Hopkins Press | year= 1970 |isbn= 978-0801812149.
*citation|editor-last=Shanks |editor-first=Hershel | title=The Art and Craft of Judging: The Decisions of Judge Learned Hand | place= New York|publisher= Macmillan|year= 1968|oclc=436539
*citation | last = Stettner| first = Edward A. | title = Shaping Modern Liberalism: Herbert Croly and Progressive Thought| year = 1993 | publisher = University Press of Kansas| place = Lawrence, KS| isbn = 978-0700605804 .
*citation | last = Stone | first = Geoffrey R. | title =Perilous Times: Free Speech in Wartime From the Sedition Act of 1798 to the War on Terrorism| year = 2004 | publisher = Norton. | place = New York | isbn = 978-0393058802 .
*citation|editor-last= Vile |editor-first= John R.| title= Great American Judges: An Encyclopedia |volume=1| place= Santa Barbara |publisher= ABC–CLIO|year= 2003 |isbn= 978-1576079898 .
*citation | last = Weinrib| first = Ernest J. | title = The Idea of Private Law | year = 1995 | publisher = Harvard University Press| place = Cambridge, MA | isbn= 978-0674442122 .
*citation | last = Westbrook| first = Robert B. | title = John Dewey and American Democracy | year = 1993 | publisher = Cornell University Press| place = Ithaca, NY | isbn= 978-0801481116 .
*citation | last = White| first = G. Edward | title = The American Judicial Tradition: Profiles of Leading American Judges| year = 2007 |edition= 3rd | publisher = Oxford University Press| place = Oxford | isbn = 978-0195139624 .
*citation | last= Wyzanski| first= Charles E.|chapter= Introduction |year= 1964| editor-surname=Hand| editor-first=Learned| title=The Bill of Rights|publisher=Atheneum.| place=New York| oclc= 4038843
*citation |url=http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1064953| chapter=Learned Hand |last=Wade |first=Stephen |date= October 5, 1999| title=All Things Considered |publisher=NPR . Retrieved on July 27, 2008. Includes excerpts of Learned Hand's recordings of folksongs for the
Library of Congress, part of a commercially released disc of American folksongs.
NAME =Learned Hand
ALTERNATIVE NAMES =Billings Learned Hand
SHORT DESCRIPTION =Famous U.S. judge
DATE OF BIRTH =January 27, 1872
PLACE OF BIRTH =Albany, New York
DATE OF DEATH =August 18, 1961
PLACE OF DEATH =New York City
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