Timeline offers intimate peek into Louis Brandeis’ Supreme Court appointment

Watch the 100th anniversary celebration live on Jan. 28 beginning at 5 p.m.

Photo/Mike Lovett

Joe Kaminsky '16 and Emily Indig '16

Visitors passing through the Shapiro Campus Center this semester will have the opportunity to spend a few months in the company of Louis D. Brandeis as he readied himself for the biggest challenge of his life.
Legal-studies lecturer Daniel Breen, along with two students from his class “Louis Brandeis: Law, Business and Politics,” Emily Indig and Joseph Kaminsky, both ’16, are creating a timeline that corresponds to Brandeis’ appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, from his nomination on Jan. 28, 1916, to his confirmation on June 1 of that year.
The timeline is part of “Louis D. Brandeis 100: Then and Now,” a semester-long commemoration of Brandeis’ appointment to the Supreme Court, as well as his life and legacy as a noted jurist and fighter for social justice, personal privacy and free expression.
“We wanted something on campus to help students be aware of what we’re celebrating with this centennial,” Breen said. “Every time someone walks through the student center, they’ll be able to see where Brandeis was in his confirmation process.
“Brandeis was this Olympian figure — whom we are correctly taught to revere — but one who didn’t get his way all the time,” Breen added. “He was someone who had to work hard for what he had.”
Breen, Indig and Kaminsky will add elements and data points to the timeline from now until the end of the semester, to show what was happening in Brandeis’ life a hundred years ago and how the confirmation process unfolded. Special Collections Librarian Anne Woodrum helped the trio create the timeline, letting them sift through numerous boxes of Brandeis’ correspondence and personal items, many of which were donated to the university by the justice’s family.
The centennial celebration formally kicks off on Thursday, Jan. 28, with a panel discussion featuring remarks from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and commentary from Ralph D. Gants, chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; Philippa Strum ’59, of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; New Yorker writer Jeffrey Toobin; and Mark Wolf, senior judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts.
The panel discussion will be live-streamed at http://www.brandeis.edu/streaming/.
The Louis D. Brandeis Centennial Commemoration Committee provided funding for the timeline’s creation. The project was also guided by Sarah Shoemaker, associate university librarian at Archives and Special Collections.
Indig said learning about Brandeis’ life outside his legal career was her favorite part of assembling materials for the timeline project.
“It’s very interesting to see how Zionism was a component in his life, and how he wrote so many letters to his wife and his daughter,” said Indig, a business major from Menalapen, New Jersey. “You see Brandeis and think ‘Supreme Court,’ but he was a person — there was a picture of him with a dog.”
As the semester goes on, Breen, Indig, Kaminsky and Shoemaker hope the Brandeis community will learn more about Brandeis — who he was as a person and what motivated him — as well as understand more about an interesting time in American history.
"Watching the timeline evolve over the course of the semester offers the community a chance to connect with the events of 1916 as they unfolded, month-by-month," Shoemaker said.
For those who aren’t able to get to the Shapiro Campus Center to view the project firsthand, Breen is creating a digital timeline, which will be published on the Brandeis website later this semester.

Categories: General, Humanities and Social Sciences, Research, Student Life

Return to the BrandeisNOW homepage