There can be no doubt that our Nation has had a long and unfortunate history of sex discrimination. Traditionally, such discrimination was rationalized by an attitude of "romantic paternalism" which, in practical effect, put women, not on a pedestal, but in a cage.

— William J. Brennan

The most attractive William J. Brennan quotes that are little-known but priceless

Death is not only an unusually severe punishment, unusual in its pain, in its finality and in its enormity, but is serves no penal purpose more effectively than a less severe punishment.

68

If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.

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We do not consecrate the flag by punishing its desecration, for in doing so, we dilute the freedom this cherished emblem represents.

60

If the right to privacy means anything, it is the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion.

54

We must meet the challenge rather than wish it were not before us.

34

The genius of the Constitution rests not in any static meaning it might have had in a world that is dead and gone, but in the adaptability of its great principles to cope with current problems and current needs.

29

Religious conflict can be the bloodiest and cruelest conflicts that turn people into fanatics.

20

Perhaps the bleakest fact of all is that the death penalty is imposed not only in a freakish and discriminatory manner, but also in some cases upon defendants who are actually innocent.

19

After each perceived security crisis ended, the United States has remorsefully realized that the abrogation of civil liberties was unnecessary.

18

The framers knew that liberty is a fragile thing, and so should we.

15

The quest for freedom, dignity, and the rights of man will never end.

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If our free society is to endure, and I know it will, those who govern must recognize that the Framers of the Constitution limited their power in order to preserve human dignity and the air of freedom which is our proudest heritage.

14

About William J. Brennan

Quotes 49 sayings
Nationality American
Profession Judge
Birthday October 16

It is difficult to understand precisely what the state hopes to achieve by promoting the creation and perpetuation of a subclass of illiterates within our boundaries, surely adding to the problems and costs of unemployment, welfare and crime.

13

You in the media ought to be ashamed of yourselves to call the provisions and the guarantees of the Bill of Rights 'Technicalities'. They're not. We are what we are because of those guarantees.

13

If we are to be as a shining city upon a hill, it will be because of our ceaseless pursuit of the constitutional ideal of human dignity.

9

It is tempting to pretend that minorities on death row share a fate in no way connected to our own, that our treatment of them sounds no echoes beyond the chambers in which they die. Such an illusion is ultimately corrosive, for the reverberations of injustice are not so easily confined.

8

The calculated killing of a human being by the state involves, by its very nature, an absolute denial of the executed person's humanity. The most vile murder does not, in my view, release the state from constitutional restraint on the destruction of human dignity.

7

Authoritative interpretations of the First Amendment guarantees have consistently refused to recognize an exception for any test of truth whether administered by judges, juries, or administrative officials and especially one that puts the burden of proving truth on the speaker.

7

If a policeman must know the Constitution, then why not a planner?

5

The principle inherent in the clause that prohibits pointless infliction of excessive punishment when less severe punishment can adequately achieve the same purposes invalidates the punishment.

5

No doubt, there are those who believe that judges - and particularly dissenting judges - write to hear themselves say, as it were, 'I, I, I.' And no doubt, there are also those who believe that judges are, like Joan Didion, primarily engaged in the writing of fiction. I cannot agree with either of those propositions.

4

Debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust and wide-open and that.

..may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials.

4

The door of the Free Exercise Clause stands tightly closed against any government regulation of religious beliefs as such. Government may neither compel affirmation of a repugnant belief, nor penalize or discriminate against individuals or groups because they hold views abhorrent to the authorities.

4

We current justices read the Constitution in the only way that we can: as 20th-century Americans.

4

We look to the history of the time of framing and to the intervening history of interpretation. But the ultimate question must be, what do the words of the text mean in our time.

4

We hold that the Constitution does not forbid the states minor intrusions into an individual's body under stringently limited conditions.

3

The Constitution was framed fundamentally as a bulwark against governmental power, and preventing the arbitrary administration of punishment is a basic ideal of any society that purports to be governed by the rule of law.

3

At bottom, the battle has been waged on moral grounds.

The country has debated whether a society for which the dignity of the individual is the supreme value can, without a fundamental inconsistency, follow the practice of deliberately putting one of its members to death.

2

All ideas having even the slightest redeeming social importance - unorthodox ideas, controversial ideas, even ideas hateful to the prevailing climate of opinion, have the full protection of the guarantees [of the First Amendment].

2

Consequences flow from a justice's interpretation in a direct and immediate way.

A judicial decision respecting the incompatibility of Jim Crow with a constitutional guarantee of equality is not simply a contemplative exercise in defining the shape of a just society. It is an order

1

More fundamentally, however, the answer to petitioners' objection is that there can be no impairment of executive power, whether on the state or federal level, where actions pursuant to that power are impermissible under the Constitution. Where there is no power, there can be no impairment of power.

1

The Bill of Rights never gets off the page and into the lives of most Americans.

1

Clerks get into the damnedest wrangles--which is the way they help me.

0

The public schools are supported entirely, in most communities, by public funds-funds exacted not only from parents, nor alone from those who hold particular religious views, nor indeed from those who subscribe to any creed at all.

0

If our free society is to endure, those who govern must recognize human dignity and accept the enforcement of constitutional limitations on their power conceived by the Framers . . . . Such recognition will not come from a technical understanding of the organs of government, or the new forms of wealth they administer. It requires something different, something deeper-a personal confrontation with the wellsprings of our society.

0

Sex, a great and mysterious motive force in human life, has indisputably been a subject of absorbing interest to mankind through the ages.

0

We cannot let colorblindness become myopia which masks the reality that many "created equal" have been treated within our lifetimes as inferior both by the law and by their fellow citizens.

0

The law is not an end in itself, nor does it provide ends.

It is preeminently a means to serve what we think is right.

0

Our statute books gradually became laden with gross, stereotyped distinctions between the sexes and, indeed, throughout much of the 19th century the position of women in our society was, in many respects, comparable to that of blacks under the pre-Civil War slave codes.

0

Capital punishment...treats members of the human race...as objects to be toyed with and discarded.

0

There is no such thing as a false idea.

0

The modern public school derived from a philosophy of freedom reflected in the First Amendment ... The non-sectarian or secular public school was the means of reconciling freedom in general with religious freedom.

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Whether to the average person, applying contemporary community standards, the dominant theme of the material taken as a whole appeals to prurient interest.

0

No longer is the female destined solely for the home and the rearing of the family and only the male for the marketplace and the world of ideas.

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Law cannot stand aside from the social changes around it.

0

Punishing desecration of the flag dilutes the very freedom that makes this emblem so revered.

0

With respect to the death penalty, I believe that a majority of the Supreme Court will one day accept that when the state punishes with death, it denies the humanity and dignity of the victim and transgresses the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. That day will be a great day for our country, for it will be a great day for our Constitution.

0

The concept of military necessity is seductively broad, and has a dangerous plasticity. Because they invariably have the visage of overriding importance, there is always a temptation to invoke security "necessities" to justify an encroachment upon civil liberties. For that reason, the military-security argument must be approached with a healthy skepticism.

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