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Louis D. Brandeis: A Life

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  220 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
The first full-scale biography in twenty-five years of one of the most important and distinguished justices to sit on the Supreme Court–a book that reveals Louis D. Brandeis the reformer, lawyer, and jurist, and Brandeis the man, in all of his complexity, passion, and wit.

A huge and galvanizing biography, a revelation of one man’s effect on American society and jurispruden
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ebook, 928 pages
Published September 22nd 2009 by Schocken (first published January 28th 1981)
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Frank Stein
Feb 18, 2013 Frank Stein rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This book is an extensive, probably too extensive, look at an undeniably fascinating man.

In the early 20th century Brandeis became known as the "People's Attorney" for taking on cases for labor unions, utility consumers and others. But as he himself said, he preferred not to be tied down to particular clients, and he aimed to be the "counsel to the situation." This meant he was often the mediator or the negotiator in a host of what he called his "pet reforms". Early in his life he took on the W
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Linda
Jan 17, 2011 Linda added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: flannery
This is a really long book - over 700 pages - but, to me, it's worth reading. First of all, I like learning about the lives of famous people, especially ones whose names and careers I've heard about but know nothing about. Louis Brandeis became one of the most notable Supreme Court justices and it's very interesting to learn about the cases that got him there. It also shows that although life goes on, nothing changes. Lots of the challenges he faced (like the separation of banking from its inves ...more
Jean Poulos
One of my goals for 2014 is to read about the Supreme Court justices so here is my first one this year. The life of Louis B. Brandeis, as explored in Professor Urofsky’s remarkable book, had innumerable passages that amazed me. Urofsky’s prose along with the meticulous detail he put into the book help capture the sweep and the details of the life of Brandeis. More than half the book is about Brandeis’s pre-court years. Brandeis was fifty-nine years old when he was appointed to the court. Urofsky ...more
Andy Miller
May 17, 2010 Andy Miller rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After reading this I wish we had a Louis Brandeis on the Supreme Court now. This new biography traces his life and reminds us that Brandeis was an extremely successful attorney who made a great deal of money representing business and commercial interests before focusing on the cases that led him to be known as the People's Attorney, including the introduction of the "Brandeis briefs."

The book reminds us that Brandeis was always committed to capitalism, he just felt that the law needed to adapt t
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Carole
Dec 01, 2012 Carole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At times Brandeis was riveting, yet there were segments that caused my eyes to glaze over, whole portions that I found myself skimming. Actually, “skimming” is a euphemism. I literally skipped a chapter or two. However, in a book of almost 1000 pages, that’s not so terrible. Where the biography focused (exhaustively and brilliantly) on Brandeis the intellectual giant, Brandeis the son, brother, friend, husband, father, grandfather, student/former student, mentor, co-jurist, espouser of causes, r ...more
UChicagoLaw
I just read and highly recommend Melvin Urofsky’s Louis Brandeis: A Life. This comprehensive and highly readable biography covers everything from Brandeis’s youth in Louisville to his remarkable career as “The People’s Lawyer,” from his lifelong devotion to the Zionist cause to the bitter controversy over his confirmation as the first Jew ever appointed to the United States Supreme Court, from the many fierce battles he fought within the Court during his more than two decades of service to his c ...more
Tim
May 15, 2012 Tim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition


Long book...but worth every minute of reading...Urofsky is a historian that can also write in a manner that reads well. Brandeis was a very interesting person...the only trouble with reading a book like this is that it makes your own life seem so insignificant. Brandeis did more in his life than most people can do in three lives. Truly remarkable...now on to the next Urofsky book.
Mary Whisner
A hefty book about an amazing man. Brandeis was involved in so many activities!
I was especially interested in some of the early material about his law practice.
Oh, there's so much to say.
Alex Lee
Jul 09, 2016 Alex Lee rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bio, history, 2016, law
This is a pretty great book. I do not know too much about law but it appears from this that perhaps Brandeis was the first to understand that ideas can be derived from data. This application "de-ontologizes" legality so that morality no longer can be derived from a static tradition but from one that can only be constructed from the immanent consistency of the practice itself.

I am working backwards from his last major Supreme Court dissent. If you assume that Congress had the true agency to move
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Michael
Jul 25, 2011 Michael rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent, mostly fascinating biography of the great Supreme Court Justice. It is very comprehensive, almost too much so. The sections on his career on the Supreme Court are by far the most interesting parts of the book, but it takes a very long time to get there. I would have liked more on how the Brandeis opinions eventually became law, and less on matters such as the early rate setting cases and the internal politics of the Zionism movement. The biography is very, very favorable to Brandeis a ...more
keatssycamore
Pretty sure there wasn't anything wrong with the audio production. I think my problem was this guy wrote 800 pages and maybe 25 of them are sufficiently critical of Brandeis. The author just God's him up too much for the book to be this long. Give me 400 pages of love instead.

And, I have to admit, it has the problem American mainstream bios of 'progressives' always have in that it erases (by acting like those further left were crazy/ineffectual) what was going on at the moment progressive polit
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Carole
Dec 01, 2012 Carole rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

At times Brandeis was riveting, yet there were segments that caused my eyes to glaze over, whole portions that I found myself skimming. Actually, “skimming” is a euphemism. I literally skipped a chapter or two. However, in a book of almost 1000 pages, that’s not so terrible. Where the biography focused (exhaustively and brilliantly) on Brandeis the intellectual giant, Brandeis the son, brother, friend, husband, father, grandfather, student/former student, mentor, co-jurist, espouser of causes, r
...more
K C
Jul 08, 2013 K C rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent biography that clearly explicates not only the life of Brandeis but also his legal philosophy, the times in which he lived, and his legacy. Although the author clearly has a high regard for Brandeis, he does not hesitate to point out flaws and inconsistencies in some of his judgements as well as relate them to today's circumstances. The book does become a bit dry in the later chapters that review various Supreme Court cases, but all of the case studies are brief and explained in such a ...more
Catherine Woodman
Thank god I had a long travel day with which to read this (although almost immediately I thought I might have done better to buy it on the kindle. It is a 1000 pages, 750 of the actual book, and quite weighty). Interesting book on Brandeis,I learned alot about him, and within the context of his life (which I wasn't that clear on when it was exactly and what his background was). There were alot of holes in the story--he was not a guy who left alot of material behind, so in some ways left more que ...more
Amaris
Jan 03, 2014 Amaris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well-written biography, especially considering the author is a lawyer. Justice Brandeis was ahead of his times in his views on civil liberties, the risk of big business and the role of the legal profession. He was behind the times on race relations, the conflict of interest in having a sitting Supreme Court justice give advice to members of the other branches of government, and the consequence of Jewish settlement in Palestine. The author gave an unvarnished look at the strengths and weaknesse ...more
YeOldeReader
Aug 03, 2016 YeOldeReader rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a fine example of scholarly biography. The author's comprehensive mastery of the sources enabled him to provide a nuanced picture of a prominent progressive whose motivation was based more closely on Jefferson's society of small farmers than Wilson's New Freedom or T.R. 's Square Deal. In addition, he captured the dynamic of Brandeis, of whom Holmes once said "I told him long ago he really was an advocate rather than a judge", and Holmes the philosopher judge.
Pam
Apr 14, 2010 Pam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an excellent comprehensive biography of a very impressive man. I only wish we had more people today with his ethics and principles and courage. I have read quotes and bits and pieces about this outstanding Supreme Court Justice and was looking forward to learning about him and his life. The author is an expert on Brandeis and wrote in an easy to read manner. The book is long and took quite a commitment of time but I felt it was worth it.
Wendy Anderson
Not my favorite biography. My biggest criticism is the book is not told in chronological order. For example, he discusses a person, then tells the reader he died then later talks about them again. It was weird. Second, it was very dry. But I finished. Third, I think you need some legal knowledge before reading this book. It discusses many Supreme Court cases for someone with some sort of legal background.
Russ Ewell
I liked this book, and if you are lawyer you might love it, but for me it was a bit dry. No doubt Brandeis was an awesome man and this book does him justice, but something tells me another author like McCullough would have made him leap off the pages, this author had more of a crawl going. Sorry :)
Pat Carson
Mar 17, 2016 Pat Carson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2016-non-fiction
This title showed up in a book list in the Washington Post recently. I'd read another title of Urofsky's so I thought I'd check it out. Really enjoyed it. This title takes us through a man's life and the changes in law for our country. If you're interested in history and the Supreme Court, this should be on your reading list.
Bill
May 09, 2015 Bill rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-america
Well written, balanced bio of a supreme court justice I knew next to nothing about. Even though he was in the minority almost all the time, his intellect and integrity were forceful enough to bring the troglodytes around on many issues. FDR called him "Old Isaiah." Urofosky's book leaves me a desire to learn more about the history of this branch of gov't.
Kent
Excellent biography of one of the most important of the 20th century Supreme Court justices; disjointed at times (cause for 4 out 5 stars) as a result of the author jumping back and forth between Justice Brandeis' private life; his work as a Zionist; and his development as an attorney and Supreme Court justice. Highly recommended
David
May 22, 2010 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Long, slow read...or how to make a fascinating life boring. If you want to read biographers who know how to write, then read Caro, Berg and Morris. Their bios of LBJ, Lindbergh and Teddy Roosevelt are outstanding.
B
Jul 29, 2012 B rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
This was fine. Didn't meet my high expectations.

Brandeis's life was very interesting. But I couldn't get into this quasi-chronological thematic chapter organization. I would prefer the story in chronological order so that it's surprising and dramatic.
Kenny
May 26, 2010 Kenny rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'd give this 3.5 stars. The book is great for learning about Brandeis, but I wasn't thrilled with the style (much more thematic than chronological, equal attention given to various subjects, despite some being straightforward and less interesting, and others complex and fascinating).
Barbara
Jun 05, 2016 Barbara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating and very relevant to the current political situation.

Economics, women's rights, monopolies, breaking up big banks ... and no, it's not a Democrat's stump speech.

If it were better read, I'd have given it a 5.
Gordon Smith
Jan 07, 2014 Gordon Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Justice Brandeis left an immense legacy, but his life before becoming a Supreme Court justice was more interesting than his life on the Court. Still, fascinating from beginning to end.
Brian
Jun 12, 2013 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An incredible read. What an amazing man. If the country can repeat history by producing a second Gilded Age, maybe real progressives can make a comeback too.
Francis Martinez
Masterful biography that educates the reader, not only on the life and work of one of our most distinguished jurist but also a wonderful history of the early progressive era.
Leslie
Leslie rated it really liked it
Oct 29, 2010
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MELVIN I. UROFSKY is professor of law and public policy and a professor emeritus of history at Virginia Commonwealth University.
More about Melvin I. Urofsky...

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