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Oliver Wendell Holmes
1841 - 1935

U.S. Supreme Court Justice (1902-1932), appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt. Holmes early on earned the nickname "The Great Dissenter" by often being at odds with his colleagues, eloquently arguing for a more liberal interpretation of the constitution, and causing Roosevelt to regret his appointment. In later years, Holmes and Justice Louis Brandeis often led the Court in this approach to the law. However he was also a champion of judicial restraint, believing strongly that the legislature was paramount in the creation of law.


The most enlightened judicial policy is to let people manage their own business in their own way.

1911 - from Dr. Miles Medical Co. v. Park and Sons Co.
We need education in the obvious more than investigation of the obscure.

If there is any principle of the Constitution that more imperatively calls for attachment than any other it is the principle of free thought -- not free thought for those who agree with us but freedom for the thought that we hate.

1928 - from the decision U.S. v. Schwimmer
The mind of a bigot is like the pupil of the eye. The more light you shine on it, the more it will contract.

To curtail free expression strikes twice at intellectual freedom, for whoever deprives another of the right to state unpopular views also deprives others of the right to listen to those views.

1928
With effervescing opinions, the quickest way to let them get flat is to let them get exposed to the air.

The common law is not a brooding omnipresence in the sky, but the articulate voice of some sovereign or quasi-sovereign that can be identified.

1917 - from Southern Pacific vs Jensen, 244 U.S. 205, 222
If I could think that I had sent a spark to those who come after I should be ready to say Goodbye.

quoted in The Mind and Faith of Justice Holmes, edited by Max Lerner, Modern Library
When men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas - that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution. It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment.

1919 - from the decision Abrams v. United States, 250 U.S. 616, 630