Built by Association: Judge Jerome Frank

Jerome Frank's inscription to Learned Hand

Judge Jerome Frank’s inscribed copy (to Learned Hand) of his book Fate and Freedom: A Philosophy for Free Americans (1945).

Jerome Frank (1889-1957) graduated from the University of Chicago Law School in 1912. As a lawyer, he specialized in corporate finance and reorganization. Frank’s first book, Law and the Modern Mind (1930), provided a psychoanalytical critique of the law that cemented his reputation as a legal realist. His other major work, Courts on Trial (1949), expressed his skepticism regarding how the judicial system determines “what the facts are.”

Frank made his principal contribution to American law as a judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. From his appointment in 1941 until his death, Frank wrote wide-reaching opinions that shaped the laws of obscenity, adhesion contracts, so-called “private attorneys-general,” and labor relations.

A few years ago I ordered this copy of Fate and Freedom from an Internet seller. When the book arrived, I found to my amazement that it was inscribed by Frank to Learned Hand, who served with Frank on the Second Circuit.

Frank’s assessment of Hand’s wisdom was no private matter. In a 1955 Yale Law School lecture, published in 1957 and anthologized in 1965, Frank declared: “Learned Hand, who both thinks deeply and feels deeply, sees life as a marvelous comic-tragedy. … He has a love for and an understanding of his fellow creatures, like him, humanly fallible. I commend him to you as a great man and as our wisest judge.”

          – Bryan A. Garner

“Built by Association: Books Once Owned by Notable Judges and Lawyers, from Bryan A. Garner’s Collection”, an exhibit curated by Bryan A. Garner with Mike Widener, is on display until December 16, 2013 in the Rare Book Exhibition Gallery, Lillian Goldman Law Library, Yale Law School.

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