Holmes and Brennan
59 Pages Posted: 11 Apr 2016 Last revised: 19 Apr 2016
Date Written: April 4, 2016
This article jointly examines two legal biographies of two landmark First Amendment decisions and the justices who produced them. In The Great Dissent (Henry Holt and Co. 2013), Thomas Healy explores Oliver Wendell Holmes’s dissent in Abrams v. United States (1919), which arguably laid the cornerstone for modern American free speech jurisprudence. In The Progeny (ABA 2014), Stephen Wermiel and Lee Levine explore William J. Brennan’s majority opinion in New York Times v. Sullivan (1964) and the development and evolution of its progeny over Brennan’s remaining twenty-five years on the Court. The article then explores three ideas: 1) the connections and intersections between these watershed opinions and their revered authors, including how New York Times and its progeny brought to fruit the First Amendment seeds that Holmes planted in Abrams; 2) three recent Supreme Court decisions that show how deeply engrained in the First Amendment fabric both cases have become; and 3) how Brennan took the speech-protective lead in many other areas of First Amendment jurisprudence.
Keywords: First Amendment, Free Speech, Freedom of Speech, Free Press, Constitution, Holmes, Brennan
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