09/05/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Why Louis Brandeis Matters: Supreme Court Justice Fought Oligarchy, 'Bigness'

During the past hundred years, [The New Republic] has continued to champion the principles that made Brandeis the greatest constitutional philosopher of the twentieth century: opposition to the curse of bigness, in corporations and government; devotion to judicial restraint in cases involving economic regulations; judicial vigilance in cases involving free speech and civil liberties; and an enthusiasm for Zionism. But this is an especially appropriate time to evaluate Brandeis's legacy. The nomination of Elena Kagan to Brandeis's seat on the Supreme Court comes at a time when progressives are rediscovering the virtues of judicial restraint, as conservatives rush to court to challenge their political defeats in areas ranging from corporate campaign spending to health care reform and economic oversight. And a masterful new biography by Melvin Urofsky offers all the biographical details necessary for reassessing Brandeis's uncanny relevance.

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