Justice Brennan: Legacy of a Champion

33 Pages Posted: 9 Jul 2013

See all articles by Dawn E. Johnsen

Dawn E. Johnsen

Indiana University Maurer School of Law

Date Written: 2013


Justice Brennan gave his biographer Stephen Wermiel extraordinary access during what would be the Justice’s final few years of service before his 1990 retirement from the Supreme Court. Wermiel later partnered with Seth Stern to complete the project and in 2010 they published Justice Brennan: Liberal Champion, an engaging account of the life and work of one of the Court’s most influential, effective, and controversial Justices. Stern and Wermiel’s biography instructs by example, illuminating the complex relevance of a judge’s views, values, and philosophies to the interpretive process. Justice Brennan is an ideal case study, for "while he remains a hero to two generations of progressive lawyers, including Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, he is also still the very symbol of judicial activism decried by conservatives." As Stern and Wermiel demonstrate, judicial selection is not a choice among umpires but between a Justice William Brennan and a Justice Felix Frankfurter, a Justice Sonia Sotomayor and a Chief Justice John Roberts – all exceptionally smart and well-trained lawyers who fully understand the rules of the game and the relevance of what they bring to the awesome responsibility of interpreting the Constitution.

Keywords: Justice William Brennan, Supreme Court, biography, originalism, living Constitution, constitutional interpretation, judicial activism, methodology, human dignity

Suggested Citation

Johnsen, Dawn Elizabeth, Justice Brennan: Legacy of a Champion (2013). Michigan Law Review, Vol. 111, No. 1151, 2013, Indiana Legal Studies Research Paper No. 247, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2291159

Dawn Elizabeth Johnsen (Contact Author)

Indiana University Maurer School of Law ( email )

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