On this date, Louis Brandeis began serving as the first Jewish member of the Supreme Court. His nomination, by President Woodrow Wilson, was bitterly contested. The controversy surrounding Brandeis’s nomination was so great that the Senate Judiciary Committee, for the first time in its history, held a public hearing on the nomination, allowing witnesses to appear before the committee and offer testimony both in support of and in opposition to Brandeis’s confirmation.
Justice William O. Douglas wrote in 1964 that the nomination of Brandeis “frightened the Establishment”:
Brandeis was a militant crusader for social justice whoever his opponent might be. He was dangerous not only because of his brilliance, his arithmetic, his courage. He was dangerous because he was incorruptible.”