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Felix Frankfurter

Coming To America, Dissenting Views, The Case Of Sacco And Vanzetti, The Supreme Court Of The United States

Born November 15, 1882 (Vienna, Austria) Died February 22, 1965 (Washington, D.C.)

Supreme Court justice

Felix Frankfurter was one of America's more powerful people in the legal profession who sought increased protection for criminal defendants in the early twentieth century. As a Supreme Court justice, he was a major force behind the creation and validation of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's (1892–1945; served 1933–45) New Deal legislation. The New Deal was a collection of federal programs created in the 1930s to assist those most affected by the economic hardships of the Great Depression (1929–41).

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

As a legal scholar, Frankfurter was keenly interested in politics, and as a political progressive (one who seeks social reform though government action) he looked to create new legal means of tackling problems. He worked to expand the concept of equal protection under the laws for all, including those in the criminal justice system. Serving on the U.S. Supreme Court from 1939 to 1962, he and his colleagues were on the bench throughout the difficult years of the 1950s as racial segregation was challenged in the courts and brought an end to racially segregated public schools in America.

Felix Frankfurter. (The Library of Congress)

For More Information


McWhirter, Darien A. The Legal 100: A Ranking of the Individuals Who Have Most Influenced the Law. Secaucus, NJ: Citadel Press, 1998.

Simon, James F. The Antagonists: Hugo Black, Felix Frankfurter and Civil Liberties in Modern America. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989.

The Supreme Court of the United States: Its Beginnings and Its Justices—

1790–1991. Washington, DC: Commission on the Bicentennial of the United States Constitution, 1992.

Web Sites

"Biographies of Supreme Court of the United States Justices: Felix Frankfurter." Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Supreme_Court (accessed on August 15, 2004).

"Felix Frankfurter." The National Archives Learning Curve. http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/USAfrankfurter.htm (accessed on February 20, 2004).

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal Law