In a 2001 law review article, Christopher A. Bracey marveled at the tendency of his fellow law professors to elevate certain judges to hero status, turning them into “idealized standard-bearers of legal culture.”
“Heroes in the law,” he continued, “like their counterparts in popular culture, are presented to us in exalted form – superbly packaged, replete with canonized tidbits of transhistorical wisdom and exhaustive lists of legendary accomplishments.”
Such “images of juridical heroes are usually met with rapid genuflection and fairly uncritical acceptance.” Unfortunately, “rarely are celebrated heroes, including those of the intellectual sort, everything we make them out to be.” How can they be, if we make them out to be everything that’s good?
“Exactly who and what these heroes are,” Bracey added, “is often blended away beneath the soft focus of reverent and adoring eyes.”
He was writing specifically about Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis, long celebrated as a champion of the common man. Other justices have law schools named after them. Brandeis not only gets that (at the University of Louisville) but also an entire research university. As America’s first public interest lawyer, he was a tireless advocate for working men and women. As a justice, his views on the First Amendment continue to shape our society today.