Justice Louis D. Brandeis, photograph by Harris & Ewing, n.d.
With a law degree from Harvard, Louis D. Brandeis established a practice in Boston as a defender of small businesses, labor unions, and consumers. When President Woodrow Wilson nominated him as an associate justice of the Supreme Court, many powerful people decried his anti-corporate record.
The Senate Approves Justice Louis D. Brandeis
Many in Congress opposed President Woodrow Wilson’s 1916 nomination of attorney Louis D. Brandeis to the Supreme Court. Brandeis, the first Jewish nominee to the high court, was a controversial figure known as the “people’s lawyer.” He challenged monopolies, criticized investment banks, and advocated for workers’ rights and protection of civil liberties. While some prominent individuals implicitly opposed Brandeis’s nomination on religious grounds, in Senate hearings, opposition focused on Brandeis’s anti-corporate record. After vehement debate, the Senate voted to confirm Brandeis’s nomination.
"When Brandeis's nomination came in yesterday, the Senate simply gasped. Today some of the Senators are coming up for air and trying to take stock."
Gus J. Karger, Letter to William Howard Taft, January 29, 1916, Woodrow Wilson Papers