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TNR’s Supreme Court Archive

Felix Frankfurter on Brandeis is just the beginning.

Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor's Senate confirmation hearings begin this week. To get the juices flowing, we dug up some TNR articles, old and new, on the highest court in the land.


Felix Frankfurter, February 5, 1915: "Brandeis"

Supreme Court Justice Frankfurter suggests the main qualities that a justice should have, describes Justice Brandeis’s judicial temperament, and concludes that Brandeis has the legal mind to handle the complexity of Supreme Court cases.

Learned Hand, February 6, 1915: "Normal Inequalities of Fortune"

The distinguished Judge Learned Hand writes about the Supreme Court case Coppage v. Kansas. Judge Hand discusses under what circumstances the state has an obligation to correct social inequalities.

Learned Hand, November 6, 1915: "Government According to Law"

Hand writes about the wisdom of passing a constitutional amendment that would make altering the Constitution an easier process, saying that it would change the nature of our government.

Learned Hand, November 20, 1915: "Hope of the Minimum Wage"

Even though Hand sees holes in the Supreme Court's argument for setting a minimum wage, he still believes it's necessary for society. 

Felix Frankfurter, April 8, 1931: "When Judge Cardozo Writes"

Justice Frankfurter distinguishes between legal and literary writing, arguing that “literature is not the goal of lawyers, though they occasionally attain it.”

Felix Frankfurter, April 27, 1932: "The Supreme Court and a Balanced Budget"

Justice Frankfurter argues that the Supreme Court has a duty to issue decisions consistent with balancing the national budget.


Jeffrey Rosen, January 18, 1993: “Leader of the Opposition”

Rosen delivers a scathing condemnation of Justice Antonin Scalia’s “torturous” and “melodramatic” opinion-writing style.

Jeffrey Rosen, August 2, 1993: "The Book Of Ruth"

Rosen describes Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg's particular version of feminism.

Jeffrey Rosen, May 2, 1994: “Sentimental Journey”

How the qualities that made Henry Blackmun a good man also made him a bad--or at least ineffective--justice.

Jeffrey Rosen, July 4, 1994: "The Craftsman and the Nihilist"

Jeffrey Rosen reviews Gerald Gunther’s biography of Learned Hand, who narrowly missed a Supreme Court nomination. Rosen praises the biography and Judge Hand, saying, “Gunther helps us respect Hand as a judicial aesthete of the purest kind.”

Jeffrey Rosen, December 5, 1994: “Forgotten Formalist”

Rosen reviews Roger K. Newman’s Hugo Black: A Biography, concluding that the Supreme Court justice was a “liberal strict constructionist” and, therefore, “a useful model for liberals today.”

Jeffrey Rosen, January 14, 2002: "Modest Proposal: Stephen Breyer Restrains Himself"

Jeffrey Rosen explores how the Surpreme Court will react to a post-September 11 world by examining a speech by Justice Stephen Breyer.

Jeffrey Rosen, June 16, 2007: "Supreme Leader: The Arrogance of Anthony Kennedy"

Assessing Anthony Kennedy's crucial swing vote and how his utopian worldview makes him more predictable than most lawyers expect.


Murray Waas, September 30, 1985: “Media Specter”

Waas explains how Senator Arlen Specter used press savvy and his penchant for investigations to become a star.

Jacob Weisberg, September 30, 1991: "Supreme Courtier"

Weisberg picks apart Laurence Tribe, whose opposition to Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas found him contradicting his own beliefs.

Michael Crowley, November 19, 2001: “Personal Time”

Crowley argues that the prickliness of Senator Patrick Leahy undermined his own agenda.

Sarah Wildman, December 30, 2002: “Closed Sessions”

After Senator Trent Lott’s racially charged comments about Strom Thurmond, Wildman profiles Jeff Sessions, a senator with an even more controversial background on racial issues.

Michael Crowley, July 25, 2005: "Miranda Rights"

Crowley explains how Manuel Miranda managed to remain an influential conservative operative after it was discovered he leaked private e-mails. 

Michael Crowley, August 1, 2005: “Secret Passion"

Crowley profiles Ralph Neas, president of People for the American Way and the most determined activist standing in the way of Chief Justice John Roberts's confirmation to the Supreme Court.

Noam Scheiber, April 10, 2006: “The Hustler”

Scheiber argues that Tom Goldstein, who, by age 35, had already argued 16 cases before the Supreme Court, is the Court's key figure, overshadowing even Chief Justice John Roberts.