Death of Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter

Death of Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter

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Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter dies in Washington, D.C. While on the court as an associate justice, Frankfurter was a staunch advocate of judicial restraint, the idea that the Supreme Court should not go too far in limiting the power of either the executive or the legislative branches of government.

Before joining the Supreme Court Felix Frankfurter had strong liberal and progressive credentials. He helped found the American Civil Liberties Union and helped President Roosevelt with his New Deal policies. This history made conservatives worried, but his adherence to the philosophy of judicial restraint limited his support of civil liberties from the bench.

Frankfurter argued that the most fundamental test for any law is the question of Rational Basis: if a rational basis for a law could be found, then the law should be considered constitutional. This is a test which just about any law can pass if you try hard enough, though.

Frankfurter also avoids imposing the restrictions of the federal Constitution on state or local governments. In the 1940 case Minersville School District v. Gobitis, for example, he argued that student First Amendment rights should not be protected by the law. Frankfurter specifically and deliberately avoided decisions that might be unpopular, fearing that the authority of the court would become eroded otherwise.

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