Learned Hand was a well-respected American judge of the twentieth century. Born into a family of attorneys and having lost his father at a young age, he was raised by his mother, who pressured him to follow in his father’s footsteps and pursue a career in law. He graduated from Harvard Law School, but he found his career to be tedious. In New York City, he finally became a district judge. He was friends with Herbert Croly and Walter Lippmann, both intellectuals and reformers. Despite being appointed as a federal judge by a Republican President, he backed Democrat Theodore Roosevelt. He was appointed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals by President Calvin Coolidge, and he ascended through the ranks to become its chief Judge. The judge’s most notable accomplishments are in the field of civil freedoms. His rulings in the Masses and Coplon cases are just two examples of his accomplishments. He ruled against the state in order to safeguard the fundamental rights of American individuals, and he did it with admirable conviction. He argued for the reconsideration of outdated laws and contributed to the research of torts. He was suspicious of Stalinism, but even more so of McCarthyism. He never served on the Supreme Court, but his pragmatic approach has made him a legend.
Childhood and Early Life
Billings Learned in Childhood and Early Life Hand was the second of two children born to Samuel Hand, a famous lawyer, and Lydia Hand on January 27, 1872. He lost his father when he was 14 and was raised by his mother.
His mother, aunt, and older sister, all overprotective female relatives, shattered his self-confidence. From the age of seven, he attended The Albany Academy and considered the teachers and curriculum to be tedious.
In 1889, he enrolled at Harvard College and began studying philosophy and economics in his sophomore year. Distinguished philosophers like William James, Josiah Royce, and George Santayana taught him.
He was a serious young man who struggled with campus life. Things improved, and he was voted president of The Harvard Advocate, a student literary magazine, and became a member of the Hasty Pudding Club.
He was elected to the famous Phi Beta Kappa club of academic students and got both his master’s and bachelor’s degrees from Harvard Law College by 1896.
Career of Learned Hand
Hand joined his uncle’s Albany law company and later became a partner, but he struggled to get clients and considered the work tedious. He was, nonetheless, adamant about succeeding.
He dabbled in journalism, taught part-time at Albany Law School, and had an interest in politics. Despite coming from a Democratic family, he supported Republican Theodore Roosevelt for Governor of New York.
He moved to New York City in 1902. While his legal career remained uninteresting, he began to interact with intellectuals and reformers. He managed to pique the interest of Charles Culp Bulingham, a powerful attorney.
Bulingham endorsed him for a post as a district judge in New York City, which he held from 1909 to 1924. He was more interested in patent law than in bankruptcy matters.
In the 1913 case of United States v. Kennerley, he argued that the book ‘Hagar Revelly’ was intended to educate women in social hygiene and was not obscene, despite the antiquated Hicklin Rule.
He joined Roosevelt’s Progressive Party in the hopes of persuading him of the need to reform the court to aid the poor, but the Democratic Party won the 1912 elections.
Recognizing that the Progressive Party was no longer relevant, he began writing pieces for Herbert Croly’s publication, The New Republic. When WWI broke out in 1914, he sympathized with the Allies.
The administration was not pleased with his decision in The Masses case. In 1917, despite being the most senior judge in his district, he was passed over for elevation to the Second Circuit.
He was appointed to the Second Circuit by President Calvin Coolidge in 1924. He had not just the President’s, but also Chief Justice William Howard Taft’s support.
He supported Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal to help the country recover from the Great Depression, but he was leery of its abuse, and he chastised Roosevelt for trying to pack the Supreme Court with New Deal advocates.
When the case of United States v. Schechter came before him in 1935, he found that the National Industrial Recovery Act did not apply since the Schechter poultry enterprise did business within the state.
During WWII, he remained a Roosevelt supporter. He was a skeptic of the House Committee on Un-American Activities and a critic of the Nuremberg war crimes trials.
He was concerned about the emergence of Communism in Russia under Stalin, as well as the Cold War, in the postwar years. Senator Joseph McCarthy’s anti-Communist crusade, on the other hand, irritated him.
He upheld the lower court’s decision in the United States v. Dennis case from 1950, in which eleven members of the United States Communist Party were charged with calling for the violent overthrow of the American government.
He left active duty in 1951, but continued to serve on the bench as aggressively as previously. He released The Spirit of Liberty, which was well-received, but he refused to accept the earnings.
In 1953, he was the lone dissenter in the Second Circuit’s decision to uphold William Remington’s perjury conviction, a government economist convicted of Communist sympathies and actions.
Major Projects of Learned Hand
Hand ruled in the 1917 Masses Publishing Co. v. Patten case that circulation of the publication The Masses should not be halted. Despite the fact that his decision was overturned, it is notable for defending freedom of expression.
He said that Coplon’s warrantless arrest and failure to reveal all wiretap records warranted the overturning of her conviction in the 1950 United States v. Coplon case before the Second Circuit bench.
Personal History and Legacy
Learned Hand married Frances Fincke in 1902, after meeting her while on vacation in La Malbaie, Quebec. Mary Deshon, Frances, and Constance were the couple’s three daughters.
When his wife became close to Louis Dow, a professor from New Hampshire, he blamed himself for being indifferent to her needs. The Hands rekindled their romance after Dow’s death in 1944.
Estimated Net Worth
Learned is one of the wealthiest politicians and one of the most well-known. Learned Hand’s net worth is estimated to be $1.5 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.
This prominent American judge proposed the calculus of negligence, a methodology for determining the standard of care for claims of damages in negligence cases.
“Liberty rests in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no Constitution, no court, can do anything to help it,” says one judge.