Justice Brennan Quotations

On the Constitution

"If our free society is to endure, and I know it will, those who govern must recognize that the Framers of the Constitution limited their power in order to preserve human dignity and the air of freedom which is our proudest heritage. The task of protecting these principles does not rest solely with nine Supreme Court Justices, or even with the cadre of state and federal judges. We all share the burden."
My Life on the Court in Reason & Passion, 17-21 (E. Joshua Rosenkranz & Bernard Schwartz eds., W.W. Norton & Company, 1997).

". . . the Constitution will endure as a vital charter of human liberty as long as there are those with the courage to defend it, the vision to interpret it, and the fidelity to live by it."
— Reason, Passion, and "The Progress of the Law," The Forty-Second Annual Benjamin N. Cardozo Lecture, ( September 17, 1987).

On Judging

"Only by remaining open to the entreaties of reason and passion, of logic and experience, can a judge come to understand the complex human meaning of a rich term such as ‘liberty,’ and only with such understanding can courts fulfill their constitutional responsibility to protect that value"
— Reason, Passion, and "The Progress of the Law," The Forty-Second Annual Benjamin N. Cardozo Lecture, (September 17, 1987).

"The well-springs of imagination, of course, lie less in logic than in the realm of human experience – the realm in which law ultimately operates and has meaning. Sensitivity to one’s intuitive and passionate responses, and awareness of the range of human experience, is therefore not only an inevitable but a desirable part of the judicial process, an aspect more to be nurtured than feared."
— Reason, Passion, and "The Progress of the Law," The Forty-Second Annual Benjamin N. Cardozo Lecture, (September 17, 1987).

On Freedom of Speech

"If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable."
Texas v. Johnson, 491 U.S. 397, 414, 1989

"…debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open and it may well include vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials."
New York Times v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 270, 1964

On Justice for the Poor

"From its founding the nation’s basic commitment has been to foster the dignity and well-being of all persons within its borders. The same governmental interests that counsel the provision of welfare, counsel as well its uninterrupted provision to those eligible to receive it; pre-termination evidentiary hearings are indispensable to that end."
Goldberg, v. Kelly, 397 U.S. 254, 265, 1970

"I think it plain that law students can be expected to make a significant contribution, quantitatively and qualitatively, to the representation of the poor in many areas."
Argersinger v. Hamlin, 407 U.S. 25, 44, 1972