David Dalin, a Professor Emeritus of History and Politics at Ave Maria University, spoke to Notre Dame Law students and guests in a talk titled: “On the Hundredth Anniversary of the First Jewish Justice: Louis Brandeis and the Jewish Seat on the Supreme Court."
“Dalin, an eminent historian and ordained Rabbi, will bring a rich understanding of the life and legacy of Louis D. Brandeis,” said Professor Gerard V. Bradley.
Dalin is the author, co-author or editor of 11 books. His forthcoming book, The Jewish Justices of the Supreme Court, from Brandeis to Kagan, is scheduled for publication by Brandeis University Press in March of 2017.
Dalin discussed the importance of Brandeis’s appointment and tenure. Brandeis was the first Jewish Justice on the Court, whose historic appointment in 1916 began the tradition of a “Jewish Seat” on the Supreme Court. As Dalin will discuss, when President Woodrow Wilson announced the nomination of Brandeis on Jan. 28, 1916, he precipitated a four-month Senate confirmation battle, in which anti-Semitism was a significant factor in the opposition to Brandeis, the most contentious fight over the confirmation of a Supreme Court Justice in American history until the 1987 Senate battle over the confirmation of Robert Bork.
One of the best known Jews of the 20th century, and a key leader of the American Zionist movement, Brandeis is widely acknowledged to have been one of the most important and influential Justices in American history, whose appointment 100 years ago set a precedent for more Jewish appointments and greater religious diversity on the Supreme Court. With Brandeis’s appointment began the 53-year tradition of a single, informally designated “Jewish Seat,” on the Court, which would continue until the resignation of Justice Abe Fortas in 1969, and President Richard Nixon’s appointment of Harry Blackmun, a Protestant, to the seat vacated by Fortas. Part of Brandeis’s enduring Jewish legacy, as Dalin will discuss, is also attributable to the fact that he was the first Supreme Court Justice to hire Jewish law clerks, setting an historic precedent that subsequent Supreme Court Justices, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, would follow.
Dalin's talk was co-sponsored by the Program on Church, State & Society.