Melvin I. Urofsky…the author of this monumental, authoritative and appreciative biography…has devoted much of his career to documenting the personal and professional life of the great lawyer and justice. In Louis D. Brandeis: A Life, he demonstrates, deploying a Brandeisian array of factual material, why Brandeis still matters, nearly 70 years after his death. The First Amendment's right of free expression, the Fourth Amendment's right to privacy and the due process clause's focus on personal liberty (rather than property) all owe their current vitality to the creative genius of Justice Brandeis, whose dissenting opinions have become the law of the land…Although this is an admiring biography, it is far from hagiographic. Urofsky presents the warts, few as there were.
The New York Times Book Review
Melvin I. Urofsky's long, stately and satisfying biography, Louis D. Brandeis: A Life, gives a full account of every aspect of Brandeis's incredibly varied career…[Urofsky] is an equable presence here, one who plainly admires Brandeis immensely but also measures and sifts his subject's actions with a critical eye. The book is a fitting culmination of a distinguished scholarly career.
The New York Times
This distinctive, full-scale biography focuses on Brandeis's intertwined and multifaceted career as a leader in the legal profession, a social and economic reformer, a key player in the American Zionist movement, and a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, the latter accounting for the last third of the book. Relying upon Brandeis family papers and letters and Supreme Court documents not previously available, Urofsky (law & public policy, Virginia Commonwealth Univ.; coeditor, The Family Letters of Louis D. Brandeis) analyzes broader social and political movements during Brandeis's lifetime (1856–1941) and the changing importance of law in society over that time. Brandeis established new jurisprudential principles for American law, especially in areas of the right to privacy, as a right to be left alone, and labor and business relationships involving legal protections for industrial laborers. However, Urofsky offers only limited analysis of his subject's judicial impact. VERDICT This chronological, conversational, and straightforward biography, as distinct from the more specialized legal and social analysis of Philippa Strum's Louis D. Brandeis: Justice for the People, will be appreciated most by general readers interested in American history and American social progress.—Steven Puro, St. Louis Univ.
A comprehensive biography of an American legal giant. A lawyer, reformer, Zionist and judge who demonstrated a unique blend of idealism and pragmatism, Louis Brandeis (1856-1941) was an unusual specimen whose career at the bar was every bit as distinguished as his tenure on the bench. From the outset of this detailed study, likely to become the standard biography, Urofsky (Law & Public Policy/Virginia Commonwealth Univ.; Money and Free Speech: Campaign Finance Reform and the Courts, 2005, etc.) confesses the difficulty of getting at the inner life of a man little given to introspection. As a Boston practitioner for nearly 40 years, Brandeis doggedly pursued "all the facts that surround" a case, and his penchant for incorporating sociological and economic materials in his legal arguments created a model later known as a "Brandeis brief." He pioneered the modern law-office practice, and his pro bono work on behalf of a variety of progressive reforms covering insurance, transportation and utilities earned him the title of the "People's Attorney." In 1916, as the first Jew ever nominated to the Supreme Court, Brandeis withstood fierce opposition from conservatives opposed to his liberal views. For the next 23 years he continued to entertain arguments and author opinions attacking the then-prevailing legal classicism that obstructed innovation. Often with his colleague and friend, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Brandeis famously dissented in a number of civil-liberties cases, most notably insisting on the right of all Americans "to be let alone." Urofksy assembles every fact pertinent to Brandeis's personal and professional life-with a few needlessly repeated-and he's especially good atplacing the Justice in a proper historical and legal context, at explaining Brandeis's passionate attachment to the Zionist cause and at making complex legal issues comprehensible for the general reader. An authoritative, impressive assessment of a man whose legal reasoning continues to influence our republic. Agent: Loretta Barrett/Barrett Books
“Utterly fascinating . . . Urofsky’s remarkable book has innumerable passages that amaze . . . [It] captures the sweep and the details of that life with what has to be called devotion . . . his achievement is remarkable.”
—Anthony Lewis, The New York Review of Books
“A commendably exhaustive work.”
—The New Yorker
“Melvin Urofsky’s lapidary new biography is a rich study of a remarkable life.”
"Melvin Urofsky's comprehensive and highly readable biography of Louis Brandeis conveys the vast scope of Brandeis's fascinating life with energy, verve and immediacy. . . In Urofsky's deft hands, Brandeis comes alive in these pages as a passionate progressive who dedicated his life and career to improving the lives of others and preserving the most fundamental American values."
—Geoffrey R. Stone, Chicago Tribune
"Urofsky has spent much of his professional life examining and writing about one or another aspect of this complex and multifaceted jurist. [His biography of Brandeis] represents the pinnacle of Urofsky's accumulated work. It will likely stand as the definitive Brandeis biography for many years."
—Harvey A. Silverglate, The Boston Globe
"[A] monumental, authoritative and appreciative biography of the man Franklin D. Roosevelt called "Isaiah" . . . [Urofsky] demonstrates, deploying a Brandeisan array of factual material, why Brandeis still matters, nearly 70 years after his death."
—Alan M. Dershowitz, New York Times Book Review
"A comprehensive biography of an American legal giant. . . likely to become the standard biography. . .An authoritative, impressive assessment of a man whose legal reasoning continues to influence our republic."
—Kirkus Reviews (starred)