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Published Wednesday, February 22, 2012 @ 4:35 AM EST
Feb 22 2012

Felix Frankfurter (November 15, 1882 – February 22, 1965):

All our work, our whole life is a matter of semantics, because words are the tools with which we work, the material out of which laws are made, out of which the Constitution was written. Everything depends on our understanding of them.

Gratitude is one of the least articulate of the emotions, especially when it is deep.

If nowhere else, in the relation between Church and State, “good fences make good neighbors.”

If one man can be allowed to determine for himself what is law, every man can. That means first chaos, then tyranny. Legal process is an essential part of the democratic process.

In a democratic society like ours, relief must come through an aroused popular conscience that sears the conscience of the people's representatives.

It has not been unknown that judges persist in error to avoid giving the appearance of weakness and vacillation.

It is a fair summary of history to say that the safeguards of liberty have been forged in controversies involving not very nice people.

It is a wise man who said that there is no greater inequality than the equal treatment of unequals.

Litigation is the pursuit of practical ends, not a game of chess.

Morals are three-quarters manners.

No court can make time stand still.

The history of liberty has largely been the history of the observance of procedural safeguards.

The indispensible judicial requisite is intellectual humility.

The mode by which the inevitable is reached is effort.

Wisdom too often never comes, and so one ought not to reject it merely because it comes late.


(Felix Frankfurter was an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. Frankfurter was born in Vienna, and immigrated to New York at the age of 12. He graduated from Harvard Law School and was active politically, helping to found the American Civil Liberties Union. He was a friend and adviser of President Franklin Roosevelt who appointed him to the Supreme Court in 1939. Frankfurter served on the Supreme Court for 23 years, and was a noted advocate of judicial restraint in the judgements of the Court.

Categories: Felix Frankfurter, Quotes of the day


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