Learned Hand: the man and the judge

Front Cover
Knopf, 1994 - Biography & Autobiography - 818 pages
0 Reviews
A Masterful, moving account of the life and work of one of the great judges of the twentieth century, whose work has left a profound mark on our legal, intellectual, and social landscape. The greatest judge never to be appointed to the Supreme Court, Learned Hand is widely considered the peer of Justices Holmes, Brandeis, and Cardozo. In his more than fifty years on the bench, he left an unequaled legacy of lastingly influential writings. This distinctive biography goes well beyond Hand's official work, however, to depict both a complex human being and the times in which he lived. The first to draw on the enormous collection of the judge's private papers, the eminent constitutional scholar Gerald Gunther vividly portrays a public man consumed by private doubts. Gunther's lively account moves from Hand's childhood in a formidable (and anxiety-producing) family of lawyers to his years at Harvard as a studious outsider, his frustrating experience in private law practice, his felt inadequacies in marriage, and his work as a federal judge. Throughout his life, Hand believed himself unworthy of the accolades bestowed upon him; self-doubt permeated all aspects of his life. Gunther subtly explores the ties between the modest, uncertain man -- a liberal skeptic who was never "too sure [he was] right" -- and his public record, and suggests that Hand's personal traits shaped his modest approach to judging: the questioning human being could not help acting that way as a judge. Hand's most enduring legacy is his advocacy of judicial restraint: repeatedly he sounded the dangers of excessive activism in unelected judges. Yet he mustered the courage to support such basic values as freedom of expression -- from his personally costly defense of dissenters amid the hysteria of World War I to his strong affirmation of free speech in his rulings on obscenity and his outspoken attacks on McCarthyism in the 1950s. This biography also offers the perspective of one of this era's most sensitive public figures on the rich political and social history of the first six decades of the twentieth century. By examining Hand's voluminous correspondence with such acquaintances as Walter Lippmann, Felix Frankfurter, and Herbert Croly (with whom he was a founding contributor to The New Republic), Gunther illuminates Hand's intense involvement with the public issues of his times, such as his enthusiastic support of Theodore Roosevelt's Progressive party. Gunther gives us a graphic portrait of a complex and uncommon man whose thoughts and words inspired generations of Americans and continue to do so today.

From inside the book

What people are saying - Write a review

LEARNED HAND: The Man and the Judge

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

An exhaustive and affectionate, albeit admittedly biased, account of the life and legal work of one of the nation's greatest jurists. As Gunther correctly points out, although biographies of Supreme ... Read full review

Learned Hand: the man and the judge

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Gunther, professor of law at Stanford University Law School and a former law clerk to Judge Learned Hand and Chief Justice Earl Warren, has given us something long overdue-a treasure trove of ... Read full review


The Early Years
Learned Hand and Frances Fincke
From Wall Street Lawyer to Federal District Judge

8 other sections not shown

Other editions - View all

Common terms and phrases

About the author (1994)

Gerald Gunther served as law clerk to Judge Learned Hand and later to Chief Justice Earl Warren in the 1950s, and then entered private legal practice in New York. Since 1962 he has been Professor of Constitutional Law at Stanford University Law School, where he is also William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law.

Bibliographic information