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Louis D. Brandeis: A Life (Anglais) Broché – 4 septembre 2012

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In 1920 theHarvard Law School professor Manley Hudson journeyed to Washington, and while there paid a visit on Justice Louis D. Brandeis and his law clerk, Dean Acheson. As he usually did, Brandeis quizzed his guest about recent events at the law school and also about Hudson's role as a legal adviser to the League of Nations. While discussing his work, Hudson alluded to international law as conditional, with principles varying depending upon the situation and the nations involved. He had barely finished when, to his great surprise and alarm, Brandeis stood up and began, as Acheson described it, to thunder like an Old Testament prophet. Principles are fixed and immutable, Brandeis declared, because without reliance on established values democratic society and individual freedom are impossible. He quoted Goethe and Euripides, and on it went, a frightening display of elemental force.

The incident is indicative of a key aspect of Louis Brandeis's nature— his idealism. He once told his niece that "ideals are everything." His attraction to the law derived in part from his belief that law provided the ideal means by which free men could impose order on their behavior and at the same time allow the greatest liberty for each person. He said many times that he had joined the Zionist movement because of its idealistic nature. For Brandeis, above all things the individual mattered, and the best society allowed each person, through hard work, to achieve all that his or her talents deserved. He did not believe in the mass salvation of "isms"; the world would be made better one person at a time. The good life rested on the dignity and independence of the individual, who could then do the hard work required to sustain freedom in a democratic society.

Idealism often conjures up the image of naïveté, of a romantic and impractical quixotism; none of these words apply to Brandeis. No one could have accomplished what he did in the legal profession, as a reformer, as a Zionist leader, and as a Supreme Court justice without being tough and realistic. He did not tilt at windmills nor see the world through rose- colored glasses. Rather, as he once told his daughter, he believed life to be hard.

What set Louis Brandeis apart, what makes his life so interesting both then and now, is how he wedded this idealism to pragmatism. He never abandoned his first principles, and some of his views, especially about economics, reflected idealism more than the reality of a changing world. Indeed, he found much in modern life ugly, impersonal, and dangerous to the goals of a democratic society. In this, however, he may have been far more prescient than some of his critics.

Brandeis lived and worked in the real world, and when he confronted a problem— either as a lawyer or as a citizen— he acted, and as he once explained, he worked on the question for as long as he could, trying to come up with an effective solution. In his reforms, it is always apparent how the idealist informed the pragmatist. He believed in an economic system of free enterprise not because one could grow rich (which he did) but because the market provided a moral proving ground. His economic reforms, as well as the advice he gave to his law clients, aimed at making business run not just more smoothly but more honestly. In one
of his first public endeavors he helped the liquor lobby beat back prohibition in Massachusetts. People were going to drink, he conceded, therefore make the laws regulating liquor fair to all, so that they could be effective and keep the liquor dealers out of politics. When one of his clients complained about labor unrest at his factory, Brandeis discovered that the workers had a  legitimate complaint, and he helped the manufacturer devise a system that provided his men with steady employment.

Even if some of his proposals failed to work in the long run, they remain noteworthy for his refusal to give up the belief that men of goodwill, once they knew all of the facts in a case, would be able to reach a just solution fair to all parties. To those who labored in the vineyard of democratic righteousness, as it were, Brandeis offered strong support; to those who would use their power to prey upon the weak, who would distort the values he held dear, he proved an implacable foe. While some critics have lampooned his fear of bigness and his desire to maintain a small- unit economy as out of touch with modern reality, recent abuses in the banking system as well as the size of multibillion-dollar mergers remind us that Brandeis did not fear bigness because of size, but because of the effects it could have upon society, the economy, and the individual. The scandals we have seen in the highest levels of government and the contempt some of our elected leaders have shown for the Constitution remind us of the need for moral leadership and idealistic visions.

Born a little more than four years before Fort Sumter, Louis Dembitz Brandeis died just a few weeks before Pearl Harbor. In his eighty- five years he saw the Union dissolve and rejoin, railroads span and unite the nation, entrepreneurs build great factories and then combine into gigantic companies, a war for imperialism, and a war to make the world safe for democracy. He chose to become a lawyer, helped to change the practices and business of the profession, and then demonstrated how law could be used as an instrument of reform. A nonpracticing Jew who did not believe in religion, he became head of the American Zionist movement in his sixth decade and transformed it from a moribund sideshow into a powerful component of American Jewish life. He saw the work of rebuilding Palestine into a modern Jewish homeland in its most idealistic terms, and set about trying to achieve that goal by paying attention to the most basic and mundane details. He argued that judges needed to take the facts of modern life into account in their decisions and taught them how to do so. In his more than two decades on the Supreme Court he established important bases of our modern jurisprudence, including a right to privacy and the rationale for why free speech is important in a democratic society. Even when he saw how the law could be twisted to achieve the goals of narrow-minded and selfish men, he never lost faith in the ideal of rule by law.

The biographer of such a man should have no trouble explaining his importance to the times in which he lived. Historians of the legal profession can easily identify his contribution to the development of the modern law office, the practice of counsel to the situation, and the establishment of pro bono work as an important element of a lawyer's obligation to the community. Social and political scientists see Brandeis as a key figure in the progressive movement, a man respected by such diverse reformers as Theodore Roosevelt and Jane Addams, Robert La Follette and Florence Kelley. Students of American Jewish history—even while wrestling with the question of why a man who ignored religion in general should suddenly become interested in Zionism— have no doubts about the impact his ideas made on defining the relation of American Jewry to world Zionism and to the Jewish state. For those who examine the Supreme Court, Brandeis remains one of the great justices in the nation's history, the author of important opinions that continue to shape American jurisprudence.

The problem for the biographer is not that Brandeis excelled in one area, or even that he had four successful careers. In his public life we can easily track how these strands intertwined, how he used his knowledge of law to further reform, how the ideas he developed as a critique of American society at the beginning of the twentieth century shaped his ideals for the Jewish settlement in Palestine, how the knowledge he gained of the real world influenced his decisions on the Court. He liked to remind people that he had been a practicing lawyer for thirty-nine years before he donned the judicial robes. But looking at Brandeis as a lawyer, or reformer, or Zionist, or judge, or friend, or husband and father will still not give us a sense of a man who is certainly greater than
the sum of these parts.

One also has to look at the seeming contradictions in his life and try to understand them. How, for example, did a man who, throughout his life, considered himself a conservative become a liberal icon? How could the man who waxed eloquent on the limits of any one person to direct large operations (each man is a "wee thing") micromanage the American Zionist movement for several years? How could someone who felt so passionately about so many things appear to so many people as cold, austere, and indifferent? How often did his moral absolutism shade over into self- righteousness and intolerance of opposition? How does one square some of his extrajudicial activities with his own professed views on the limits of judicial office?

The biographer's job would be much simpler had Brandeis been an introspective man, had he confided his thoughts to a diary, as Felix Frankfurter did, or worn his heart on his sleeve, as did another of Brandeis's lieutenants, Stephen Wise. He wrote tens of thousands of letters in his lifetime, and although many of them survive, very few cast any light on the inner man. We know that he shared his thoughts and his views on life with his wife, Alice, but aside from the letters he wrote while courting her, this exchange of views seems to have taken place in intimate conversations between them. He wrote to her almost every day when away from home as well as to his brother, Alfred, and he spoke to them of many things— his activities, the people he met, political gossip— but not about what he felt, what disappointments he may have had, what sorrows he endured. If at times he seemed two-dimensional and unfeeling to his contemporaries, he wittingly or not fostered that view.

He told his daughter Susan that he spent more than forty years cultivating a "general calm attitude toward every situation." We know from other sources that he was the object of anti- Semitic sentiment, but from his letters we have no idea of how he felt about it or if it affected him in any way. During the bitter fight over his confirmation to the Court, he resented the charges hurled against him, but in only one instance did the exterior facade crack to allow us a glimpse of the anger he felt. The "general calm attitude" apparently protected him, but it also created a shell that not only historians but his contemporaries could not penetrate. The man who invented the modern legal doctrine of privacy would no doubt say that is as it should be.

Years ago, one of his law clerks, Professor Paul A. Freund of Harvard, told me that Brandeis had "a mind of one piece." His life, despite its many different aspects, had in Freund's view a unity and an internal consistency, and in my study of Brandeis I have come to appreciate the wisdom of that insight. In a similar analogy, Judge Learned Hand spoke of Brandeis's life as a "tapestry" whose many strands make the pattern; to look at one thread alone not only destroys the whole but gives the strand itself a false value.

In this work I have tried to show how Brandeis's different careers fit in with one another, how the lawyer, the reformer, the Zionist, the jurist, and the man each contributed to the tapestry and how inter - related they were. Throughout his life one can find a seamlessness between what he believed and what he did, in how he dealt with the often gritty details of a commercial law practice or a reform or a case involving individual liberty without ever losing sight of the first principles he held so dear, ideals that undergirded his faith in democratic society and individual freedom. He had less-endearing characteristics, and those are also strands of the tapestry. But to look at only his pragmatism or his idealism, or at any of his four careers separately, is to lose sight of the whole man. In his life and his work, he was always the idealistic pragmatist, one whose faith in time remained great.

From the Hardcover edition.

Revue de presse

"Will likely stand as the definitive Brandeis biography for many years."
The Boston Globe

“Utterly fascinating . . . Urofsky’s remarkable book has innumerable passages that amaze . . . [It] captures the sweep and the details of that life with what has to be called devotion . . . his achievement is remarkable.”
—Anthony Lewis, The New York Review of Books
“A commendably exhaustive work.”
The New Yorker
“Melvin Urofsky’s lapidary new biography is a rich study of a remarkable life.”
The Economist

"Conveys the vast scope of Brandeis's fascinating life with energy, verve and immediacy. . . Brandeis comes alive as a passionate progressive who dedicated his life and career to improving the lives of others. Comprehensive and highly readable." 
Chicago Tribune
"[A] monumental, authoritative and appreciative biography of the man Franklin D. Roosevelt called "Isaiah" . . . [Urofsky] demonstrates, deploying a Brandeisan array of factual material, why Brandeis still matters, nearly 70 years after his death."
—Alan M. Dershowitz, New York Times Book Review
"A comprehensive biography of an American legal giant. . . likely to become the standard biography. . .An authoritative, impressive assessment of a man whose legal reasoning continues to influence our republic."
Kirkus Reviews (starred)

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Un bon gros bouquin quasiment exhaustif sur Brandeis qui n'a que le défaut d'être fastidieux par les détails pour finalement manquer de subtilité sur l'essentiel de la carrière. On y lit toutes les affaires plaidées en départ de carrière jusqu'aux legs fait à ses filles à la fin. Mais, hormis l'exposé plat du rôle politique, on trouvera que ce travail manque un peu de profondeur d'analyse.
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Un personnage passionnant mais l'exposition de sa vie se perd dans trop de détails de la vie de son époque avec un style qui n'est ni celui d'Henry James ni celui de Proust. Malgré l'intérêt pour la bio, le livre a fini par me tomber des mains.
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Amazon.com: HASH(0x8c3c6e70) étoiles sur 5 35 commentaires
44 internautes sur 44 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8cc9ca08) étoiles sur 5 A Magnificent Biography of Justice Brandeis 22 octobre 2009
Par Ronald H. Clark - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
This new biography of Justice Louis D. Brandeis (1856-1941) is the most extensive study we have of the Justice. It runs over 900 pages including extensive notes. Who better to undertake such a task than Professor Urofsky, who has edited 7 volumes of Brandeis letters, written several prior book-length studies of the Justice, and authored numerous articles discussing his activities. While there are a number of earlier biographies of the Justice, including the classic by Alpheus Mason ("Brandeis: A Free Man's Life" [1946]), this is by far the most extensive and thorough look we are likely to have of Brandeis and his life. The author does a nice job of balancing LDB's professional activities with his private life. Urofsky came to know the Justice's two daughters (now deceased) while working on the letters volumes with David Levy, and they shared family photographs and recollections of their father and mother with him. He also has had extensive contact with the surviving Brandeis grandchildren, as least one of whom like Urofsky is involved in the work of the Supreme Court Historical Society here in Washington.

Urofsky focuses on several topics not extensively covered in the earlier biographies. First, the Justice's wife, Alice, much as Holmes' wife and Frankfurter's spouse, suffered from period of mental exhaustion which required treatment including hospitalization on occasion, although her condition improved substantially over time. Their relationship is essential to understanding the world in which LDB lived, and Urofsky's discussion puts this situation into proper context. The second area where Urofsky departs from previous biographies is his exhaustive discussion of LDB's Zionist activities. He is well qualified to address this aspect of LDB's life since he has written a history of American Zionism. Urofsky is nothing if not thorough, but I sometimes wondered if quite so much of this very long biography (I would estimate 15%-20%) needed to be devoted to LDB's Zionist activities. Other biographers have discussed his Zionist leadership, but in far less space; on the other hand, they did not have Urofksy's intimate knowledge of the history of American Zionism and Brandeis' role. There is no question that Zionism became a major, or the major, interest of LDB beginning in 1912 and continuing for the remainder of his life. So the attention Urofsky devotes to this aspect of the Justice's life is certainly merited. He has convinced me that you can't fully understand LDB without an awareness of this aspect of his life.

While Urofsky is respectful of Brandeis, he recognizes some of the LDB's shortcoming as well. Was LDB perhaps "cold, haughty, disdainful"? He certainly had no sense of humor and was somewhat distant. Urofsky also questions Brandeis' own view that he had an internal ethical sense which would foreclose him from ever acting inappropriately, hence he could advise Presidents, subsidize Frankfurter's political activities, and act as "counsel to the situation" in a dispute on behalf of all parties. In short, this is quite a well "balanced" biography not hagiography. One of the most valuable aspects of the book is found in the 142 pages of endnotes--a treasure chest of research for those interested in probing further into the life of this fascinating Justice. The photographic research is also outstanding and adds to the impact of the text. The book is comprehensive--covering LDB from his early years in Kentucky through building his law practice, his period as the "People's Attorney," working with Woodrow Wilson, his tough confirmation battle, his 23 years on the Supreme Court, his leadership of American Zionism, and his warm family relationships. A most complete study of this most complex of individuals.
39 internautes sur 45 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8cc9cc54) étoiles sur 5 The Life Of A Judge 26 septembre 2009
Par C. Hutton - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
Mr. Urofsky has written an excellent and exhaustive (at nearly a thousand pages) biography of the lawyer who was appointed to the Supreme Court by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916. A progressive judge who believed in judical restraint, Louis Brandeis' legal dissents later became the basis of law and his support of a Jewish homeland later became Israel. He was born before the Civil War and died just before Pearl Harbor. The author has written a readable and understandable life of law, and of the political tides of Justice Brandeis' long life (he died at 85).
14 internautes sur 14 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8cc9ce94) étoiles sur 5 An American for all seasons 3 mars 2010
Par Klaus Hansen - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
In "Louis D. Brandeis: A Life," author Melvin Urofsky has achieved, above all, three things--a history of the life and times of an American who put an indelible mark on his country at a time of monumental political, intellectual, and social change, encompassed by the progressive era; of a liberal Jew who helped in integrating the Jewish religion and culture into the American mainstream, while at the same time playing an important role in the development of Zionism; and who as a justice on the United States Supreme court helped reshape the legal foundations of the Amerian republic to the benefit of a broader population base.
14 internautes sur 15 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8cdef054) étoiles sur 5 Urofsky is to judicial biography what McCullough is to Presidential biography 9 janvier 2010
Par Alex J. Mili Jr. - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié
It is evident that Urofsky is an outstanding history professor at UCV because the chapters of this book are pedagogically arranged like a syllabus for a graduate-level seminar course. This book is lengthy and comprehensive, but easily digested and well organized. I am a big fan of David McCullough's presidential biographies (Truman, John Adams) because McCullough takes that same professorial approach to the organization and content of his writing. Urofsky is in the same league as McCullough.
Before reading this book, I knew Brandeis only for his infamous Brandeis Brief in Muller v. Oregon and his tenure on the U.S. Supreme Court. This book shows that those events were mere chapters in the extraordinary life of Brandeis. That is why I also recommend this book to anyone who may not necessarily be interested in Brandeis or the Supreme Court, but who simply enjoys the study of U.S. history.
Brandeis is the product of the Progressive Era, and this book provides a deep and scholarly understanding of that era, including some in-depth coverage of other notable Progressive Era figures, such as Robert LaFollette and Woodrow Wilson. Urofsky does not even discuss Brandeis's tenure on the Supreme Court until more than half way through the book. The first half mostly covers Brandeis's various reform movements, including his efforts to change industrial insurance into savings bank insurance, his infamous law review article on the right to privacy that later became the springboard for a new area of tort law, his fight against railroad monopolies, his role as mediator in the early days of the unionized labor movement, his shakedown of the Taft Administration in the Pinchot-Bollinger affair (an interesting foreshadow of the tensions to come when Brandeis and Taft would later serve together on the U.S. Supreme Court), and his wise counsel to Woodrow Wilson during the 1912 Presidential campaign.
Urofsky's professorial approach enables the average reader to clearly understand the complex historical, political, social and moral background for each of these reform movements. For example, Urofsky provides a simplified "Business 101 style" explanation of the insurance industry, which gives Brandeis's reform efforts in that area a perspective that any other historian might overlook. As another example, Urofsky provides a clear context of American Zionism (Jewish-American awareness of the need for a Jewish homeland in Palestine) against the backdrop of Teddy Roosevelt's suspicion of hyphenated Americans (Roosevelt believed you had to be either Jewish or American but not Jewish-American).
For those readers who are interested in the U.S. Supreme Court, this book includes a wealth of history, with detailed chapters on Brandeis's confirmation process (he was almost Borked decades before Borking became a verb in the English vocabulary), the inner workings of the Supreme Court in the early 20th Century in surprisingly sharp contrast to the modern Court (for example, the Justices worked out of their homes because they didn't have private chambers and they paid their law clerks out of their own pockets), and Brandeis's jurisprudence (particularly his contribution to the birth of administrative law).
For those who are interested Brandeis as an historical figure, the book is an exhaustive biography summed up best by the first sentence of Chapter 2: "Throughout his life, Louis Brandeis had the good fortune to be in the right place at the right time, and the courage and perspicacity to grasp the opportunities before him." The book is loaded with stories of such places, times and opportunities, most notably Brandeis's time as a student at Harvard Law School at the point in history when Langdell changed the course of legal education, but also his humble Louisville roots and his brief stop in St. Louis. In sum, this biography shows (as promised in the author's introduction) that Brandeis was idealistic (a true figure of turn-of-the-20th-century progressivism comparable to LaFollette), pragmatic (formulated the most expedient means to achieve his idealist ends), and prescient (warned against "the curse of bigness" more than one hundred years before the U.S. government bailed out businesses that were "too big to fail"). Hope these are enough reasons to buy this book.
19 internautes sur 22 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x8cdef42c) étoiles sur 5 An Excellent Work on Brandeis 31 octobre 2009
Par Dr. Terrence McGarty - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
The author has written a detailed account of one of the most eminent lawyers and judges of our country, Brandeis. Brandeis was a brilliant and perceptive jurist and he was part of what is now the bases of many of what we accept as common "rights" as citizens of the United States.

The biography is long and detailed and is probably one of the best biographies on Brandeis that I have read. Rather than detail the book I want to use two episodes in Brandeis life as discussed in the book to make a few points.

First, the issue of the right to privacy. On pp 99-102 the author describes the seminal paper by Warren and Brandeis entitled "The Right to Privacy" which as the author does state is in many ways a right to be left alone, a right to anonymity. The fact is that there is no such right in the Constitution and that Warren and Brandeis, truly Brandeis alone if one understands the author, develops such "right" from well established common law principles. This was a brilliant paper and in many ways is as important today and it was over a hundred years ago. It would have been interesting for the author to detail this paper a bit more. The author returns to this topic of privacy in the discussion of the Olmstead case on pp 628-632. This was the first wiretapping case where the Court ruled that there was no need for a warrant and thus no 4th Amendment protection. Brandeis' writing on his dissent is quite telling and it should have gotten a bit more coverage by the author. Brandeis states in his dissent:

"Of all the rights of the citizen, few are of greater importance or more essential to his peace and happiness than the right of personal security, and that involves not merely protection of his person from assault, but exemption of his private affairs, books, and papers, from the inspection and scrutiny of others. Without the enjoyment of this right, all others would lose half their value."

To me this needs a substantially longer discussion but the author does do it some credit.

The second issue is the relationship between Brandeis and Taylor and Galbreth, both early 20th century management consultants. There is a recent article in The New Yorker by Jill Lepore, a superb piece of critical and historical analysis of Brandeis, which discusses this relationship in detail and presents many of the weaknesses in Brandeis. Lepore looks at Brandeis through the lens of the management and efficiency consultants, in may ways the hucksters who predated the current Business Schools. She starts her article by stating:

"Ordering people around, which used to be just a way to get things done, was elevated to a science in October of 1910, when Louis Brandeis, a fifty-three-year-old lawyer from Boston, held a meeting at an apartment in New York with a bunch of experts who, at Brandeis's urging, decided to call what they were experts at "scientific management." Everyone there--including Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, best known today as the parents in "Cheaper by the Dozen"--had contracted "Tayloritis": they were enthralled by an industrial engineer from Philadelphia named Frederick Winslow Taylor, who had been ordering people around, scientifically, for years."

The essence of the tale is that Brandeis, who at the time was sitting on a regulatory body which controlled the monopoly like rates of railroadsm had gotten enthralled with the less than scientific work of Taylor and the Gilbreths. He then saw that railroads should employ these new management techniques and then lower their rates. Simple, except as Lepore states, the Taylor results were a fraud! Perhaps there is a lesson here for many other "scientifically" based causes seeking legal justification. Brandeis was a brilliant legal scholar, however he had no expertise in the area of actually running a company. He did however understand the "books" and "records" of a company and as such he had used this profitably in his law practice. Yet the Taylor approach assumed you looked forward and not backward, that you understood the business as a living entity and not just the records of what happened. Brandeis was a lawyer at heart, as such he always looked backwards for precedent.

The author of the present biography gives, in my opinion, short shrift to this issue discussed by Lepore. He covers it on pp 240-243 but his discussion misses the key point presented by Lepore. Namely that Brandies became enamored with Taylor and Galbreth and that Taylor according to Lepore was somewhat of a fraud, the Taylor data it is alleged was all fabricated, and Galbreth had little if any basis for his facts and recommendations.

The author has done a superb job at writing the biography. Yet it does have in my opinion certain weaknesses. In certain parts of the text the sentences are wonderful but the paragraphs do not hold together, there is jumping around in time and in concepts being discussed. In contrast, the Lepore article has a style that is quite readable, whereas that of Urofsky is at times cumbersome and pedantic. As stated in my discussion of privacy and "management", Brandeis set the gold standard for privacy and I believe Urofsky could have taken that further, and with Taylor and Galbreth, I believe Brandeis just did not do his home work, and this was a failing.
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