Built by Association: Judge Learned Hand

Learned Hand's inscription, to Judge Edward Lumbard
October 16, 2013

Judge Learned Hand’s inscribed copy (to Judge Edward Lumbard) of his book The Bill of Rights (1958).

Learned Hand graduated from Harvard College in 1892 and from Harvard Law School in 1895. Appointed to the federal district court in New York in 1909, Hand enjoyed one of the longest tenures on the federal bench (52 years) of all 20th-century judges. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge elevated Hand to the Second Circuit, where he served until his death in 1961.

As a judge, Hand set high standards for clarity of expression and judicial craftsmanship. It is little wonder that he has been quoted more often than any lower-court judge by legal scholars and by the United States Supreme Court. He advocated strongly for free speech, famously arguing in Masses Publishing Co. v. Patten (1917) that the First Amendment should protect all speech that does not incite others to illegal action.

Although Hand twice came close to getting appointed to the Supreme Court, opponents blocked him for political reasons on both occasions. Yet the tough-minded Hand is generally considered to be a greater judge than all but a few of his contemporaries who sat on the Supreme Court.

Judge Hand inscribed the book here displayed to a colleague on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit: “To J. Edward Lumbard [1901–1999], a wise and considerate colleague and a strong support.” Lumbard served with Hand from 1955 to 1961.

          – 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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