Thursday, August 18, 2011

Learned Hand

One utterance of [Oliver Cromwell] has always hung in my mind.  It was just before the Battle of Dunbar; he beat the Scots in the end . . . but he wrote them before the battle, trying to get them to accept a reasonable [compromise].  These were his words: "I beseech you . . . think it possible you may be mistaken."  I should like to have that written over the portals of every church, every school, and every courthouse, and, I may say, of every legislative body in the United States.
From testimony he delivered to a Senate committee in 1951.  Learned Hand was a federal district judge in New York City for 15 years, and a federal appeals court judge for 37 years.  He was considered a political liberal, but believed strongly in judicial restraint and opposed those judges who legislated from the bench.  He wrote about 4000 judicial opinions, which were admired for their clear and precise language, and it is believed that no other judge was ever quoted more often by the Supreme Court.  Author Louis Auchincloss said that the hero of his famous novel, The Rector of Justin, which was about the headmaster of a New England boarding school, was not modeled on a real headmaster but on Judge Hand -- "the greatest man it has been my good luck to know."  Hand died on this date in 1961.

Judge Learned Hand

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