Strathearn S. S. Co. v. Dillon — An Unpublished Opinion by Mr. Justice Brandeis

Harvard Law Review 69, no. 7 (May 1956).


When in 1927 Augustus N. Hand was elevated from the district court, where he had already earned an enviable reputation, and began his great career on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, Brandeis wrote him a congratulatory note. Hand’s gracious reply contained these two sentences: “However much some of your associates may differ with your general point of view, I believe they appreciate the light you bring to many cases from sources they would never and by their training and education could never explore. The thing which impresses the average lawyer and the law professors about your work is the thoroughness with which you proceed so that everything is tied up before your opinion ends.” Four years later, on the occasion of Brandeis’ seventy-fifth birthday, Augustus Hand, who was not given to bandying compliments lightly, expanded on this thought. “It is a rare thing,” he wrote then, “to find anyone who has your information about the facts affecting economic and social principles and has even the tendency, let alone the capacity┬áto buttress his conclusions with precedents and convincing argument. I confess that the ‘judicial hunch’ is to me a terrible thing. If I by mistake employ it I don’t believe in any such nebulous stuff and I think it at present a special danger. The worst literalist and case judge is better than one who thinks he has everything in his own hands. By it we should lose the only sanction for our decisions. I have been particularly impressed by the care with which you justify and fortify your conclusions in all the opinions you write.”

Yale Law School