House Approves Yarmuth's Resolution Honoring Justice Brandeis

Wednesday December 16, 2009

(Washington, DC) Today, the House of Representatives approved – by a vote of 423 to 1 - H. Res. 905, legislation introduced by Congressman John Yarmuth (KY-3) honoring the life of one of Louisville’s most distinguished natives - Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis - on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of his retirement from the Court.

For more on the legislation and Brandeis, click here.

The text of Congressman Yarmuth’s speech today in support of the resolution is below, and a video of the speech can be seen here:

Mister Speaker, in Louisville, we are proud of many of the great things our most legendary residents have achieved. From Muhammad Ali’s success in and out of the boxing ring to Diane Sawyer’s groundbreaking work in journalism to Harlan Sanders’ achievements as an entrepreneur, there’s evidence of their legacies throughout our community. It’s in the stories we tell, it’s found in the history embedded in our neighborhoods, and it’s seen on the banners hung in their honor throughout town.

We are proud that our city has been home to people who have changed the world in the realms of athletics, literature, art, music, business and – in the case of the man we are celebrating today – law.

Louis D. Brandeis was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1856, the son of immigrants - and it was to Louisville that he would return throughout his life.

It was from the cradle of the burgeoning immigrant communities of 19th Century Louisville that Brandeis began his distinguished career. He excelled first at Louisville’s Male High School and then Harvard Law, before beginning a successful career as a lawyer and academic that led, in 1916, to the bench of the United States Supreme Court when he was nominated by Woodrow Wilson as the first Jewish Justice.

The achievements of Justice Brandeis, however, go far beyond breaking that ground. His legacy as a jurist and litigator has had a longstanding impact not just in the courtrooms and law books, but in the lives of every American citizen. His accomplishments were far ranging, but their influence resonates today and will do so far into the future.

To those of us who treasure the First Amendment and its protection of free speech, we can thank the work of Louis Brandeis. To those who value the extension of equal rights to all Americans, we can thank Louis Brandeis.

The right to privacy, groundbreaking work in the field of labor relations, successful challenges to once powerful corporate monopolies – the list is long and establishes Justice Brandeis’ career as one well deserving of our recognition in this House – a recognition he has not yet received in the 70 years since he retired from the Supreme Court.

The work of Louis Brandeis deserves not just our honor, but our attention. Though the battles we fight today may have changed from those of Brandeis’ era, his work is rich in relevance for all of us involved in lawmaking.

When few others would, Brandeis took on the powerful monopolies that caused economic havoc during the first half of the 20th century. He was continuously skeptical of large banks and their relationship to corporations whose failure could threaten the entire economy, and he helped develop the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 which clamped down on the banking industry‘s most egregious practices. In his book Other People‘s Money: And How the Bankers Use It and a series of columns, Brandeis warned his contemporaries of the dangers posed by massive financial corporations accumulating resources and using them irresponsibly – lessons that forewarned the economic crisis we faced in this country just last year.

As a litigator, educator, philanthropist, and jurist, Louis Brandeis did nothing short of ensuring that the rights we now regard as commonplace would persevere.

His contributions are those for which all the country should be grateful and his legacy is something for which all of us from Louisville can be proud. In fact, his legacy in Louisville lives on at the University of Louisville, where the law school now bears the name of Justice Louis Brandeis.

I join Justice Brandeis’ grandsons Frank Gilbert and Walter Raushenbush, his granddaughter Alice Popkin, and the rest of his family in urging my colleagues to support H. Res. 905, recognizing the 70th anniversary of the retirement of this legendary American, educator, litigator, and jurist.

 

Source: Congressman John Yarmuth's website. Reprinted with permission. 

This news item will also appear on the Courier-Journal's Forum page on Friday, December 18.