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Felix Frankfurter

(1882 - 1965)


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Felix Frankfurter was an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1939 to 1962.

Frankfurter, the son of a Jewish merchant and his wife, was born in Vienna, on November 15, 1882. At the age of twelve, he emigrated to the United States with his family. After graduating from New York City College, in 1902 he entered Harvard Law School.

In 1906, he became the assistant of New York attorney Henry Stimson. Five years later, President Taft appointed Stimson to the cabinet as Secretary of War. Stimson then appointed Frankfurter as law officer in the Bureau of Insular Affairs.

Felix Frankfurter was a civil libertarian. In 1920, he helped to found the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Several years later he joined in the campaign to overturn the death penalty of anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti. Until his appointment to the Supreme Court, Frankfurter was a professor at Harvard Law School.

When Franklin D. Roosevelt was governor of New York, Frankfurter often gave him legal advice. Frankfurter continued to advice Roosevelt upon Roosevelt's ascension to the presidency. The relationship between Roosevelt and Frankfurter paid off when, in 1939, Felix Frankfurter was appointed to the Supreme Court.

Frankfurter became the court's most outspoken advocate of judicial restraint: the view that courts should not interpret the Constitution in such a way as to impose sharp limits upon the authority of the legislative and executive branches. As such, he was an opponent of judicial activism, the view that allows the judiciary to interpret laws in a way in which they may not have been intended.

Felix Frankfurter was active in Zionist causes. He was a member of the American Zionist delegation to the Paris Peace Conference, sent by Justice Louis Brandeis. Frankfurter engaged in correspondence with Arab leader Emir Faisal, in which Faisal expresses his support for the Jewish nationalist movement.

In 1963, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom with Distinction.

Frankfurter died in Washington on February 22, 1965.


Sources: Portions from Wikipedia; Oyez; Paris Peace Conference

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