Sunday, June 5, 2016

Louis Brandeis sworn in as Justice of the United States Supreme Court: June 5, 1916

 On this date in 1916, Louis Brandeis was sworn in as Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Brandeis was the first Jewish Supreme Court Justice.  Now this would hardly seem remarkable, but prior to Brandeis there   Presently, three out of the current nine Justices is Jewish, and the current nominee is also Jewish.  The first Catholic Justice was appointed in 1836, which in some ways makes the Brandeis story all the more remarkable as Catholics were a fairly despised minority in the US when Roger Taney was appointed that year.  That makes the Supreme Court one of the more egalitarian bodies in the American government but it also shows, I suspect, the extent to which Jews were disadvantaged in some ways in the US even though they have always been well represented in the law.

Brandeis was a liberal justice and received opposition to his appointment for that reason, which was compounded by the fact that he was Jewish. That was overcome however.  This does make his appointment more interesting, however, as it does demonstrate that Woodrow Wilson was a true progressive, as he appointed a progressive justice, but it also make all the more curious Wilson's racism, which was focused on blacks.  A person would suspect that a progressive President who did not base his choice on matters of faith, would have supported American blacks, but he didn't.

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