Learned Hand quotes

  • Justice is the tolerable accommodation of the conflicting interests of society, and I don't believe there is any royal road to attain such accommodation concretely.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Believe #Justice #Royal

  • Anyone may arrange his affairs so that his taxes shall be as low as possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which best pays the treasury. There is not even a patriotic duty to increase one's taxes. Over and over again the Courts have said that there is nothing sinister in so arranging affairs as to keep taxes as low as possible. Everyone does it, rich and poor alike and all do right, for nobody owes any public duty to pay more than the law demands.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Patriotic #Law #Liberty

  • We accept the verdict of the past until the need for change cries out loudly enough to force upon us a choice between the comforts of inertia and the irksomeness of action.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Change #Past #Choices

  • If we are to keep our democracy, there must be one commandment: thou shalt not ration justice.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Justice #Democracy

  • The hand that rules the press, the radio, the screen and the far-spread magazine, rules the country.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Country #Media #Hands

  • I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon law and upon courts. These are false hopes, believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it. While it lies there it needs no constitution, no law, no courts to save it.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Lying #Believe #Heart

  • In the end it is worse to suppress dissent than to run the risk of heresy.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Running #Risk #Ends

  • It is the daily; it is the small; it is the cumulative injuries of little people that we are here to protect....If we are able to keep our democracy, there must be once commandment: THOU SHALT NOT RATION JUSTICE.
    -- Learned Hand

    #People #Justice #Democracy

  • Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Freedom #Lying #Heart

  • The mid-day sun is too much for most eyes; one is dazzled even with its reflection. Be careful that too broad and high an aim does not paralyze your effort and clog your springs of action.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Spring #Eye #Reflection

  • If the prosecution of crime is to be conducted with so little regard for that protection which centuries of English law have given to the individual, we are indeed at the dawn of a new era; and much that we have deemed vital to our liberties, is a delusion.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Law #Liberty #Dawn

  • There is no surer way to misread any document than to read it literally. ... As nearly as we can, we must put ourselves in the place of those who uttered the words, and try to divine how they would have dealt with the unforeseen situation; and, although their words are by far the most decisive evidence of what they would have done, they are by no means final.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Mean #Trying #Finals

  • Heretics have been hated from the beginning of recorded time; they have been ostracized, exiled, tortured, maimed, and butchered; but it has generally proved impossible to smother them; and when it has not, the society that has succeeded has always declined.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Impossible #Hated #Heretic

  • We shall succeed only so far as we continue that most distasteful of all activity, the intolerable labor of thought.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Ideas #Succeed #Labor

  • No doubt one may quote history to support any cause, as the devil quotes the scripture.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Support #Doubt #Devil

  • The spirit of liberty is the spirit of him who, near two thousand years ago, taught mankind that lesson it has never learned ... .
    -- Learned Hand

    #Years #Two #Liberty

  • You cannot raise the standard against oppression, or leap into the breach to relieve injustice, and still keep an open mind to every disconcerting fact, or an open ear to the cold voice of doubt.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Voice #Doubt #Mind

  • Words are not pebbles in alien juxtaposition.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Juxtaposition #Pebbles #Aliens

  • I shall ask no more than that you agree with Dean Inge that even though counting heads is not an ideal way to govern, at least it is better than breaking them.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Agreement #Way #Dean

  • There is no surer way to misread any document than to read it literally.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Inspirational #Way

  • Each one of us must in the end choose for himself how far he would like to leave our collective fate to the wayward vagaries of popular assemblies For myself it would be most irksome to be ruled by a bevy of Platonic Guardians, even if I knew how to choose them, which I assuredly do not I should miss the stimulus of living in a society where I have, at least theoretically, some part in the direction of public affairs.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Fate #Missing #Would Be

  • The use of history is to tell us what we are, for at our birth we are nearly empty vessels and we become what our tradition pours into us.
    -- Learned Hand

    #History #Use #Birth

  • The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understands the minds of other men and women.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Freedom #Men #Mind

  • We prate of freedom; we are in deadly fear of life, as much of our own American scene betrays.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Life #Scene #Betray

  • In america, there are two tax systems: one for the informed and one for the uninformed. Both are legal
    -- Learned Hand

    #Two #America #Uninformed

  • What seems fair enough against a squalid huckster of bad liquor may take on a different face, if used by a government determined to suppress political opposition under the guise of sedition.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Government #Political #Liberty

  • 'I beseech ye . . . , think that ye may be mistaken.' I should like to have that written over the portals of every church, every school, and every courthouse, and, may I say, of every legislative body in the United States. I should like to have every court begin, 'I beseech ye . . . , think that we may be mistaken.'
    -- Learned Hand

    #School #Thinking #Church

  • Right knows no boundaries, and justice no frontiers; the brotherhood of man is not a domestic institution.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Men #Justice #Brotherhood

  • Words are chameleons, which reflect the color of their environment.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Reflection #Color #Environment

  • Since we are men, we will play the part of Man.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Men #Play

  • Life is made up of constant calls to action, and we seldom have time for more than hastily contrived answers.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Answers #Action #Life Is

  • That community is already in the process of dissolution where each man begins to eye his neighbor as a possible enemy, where non-conformity with the accepted creed, political as well as religious, is a mark of disaffection; where denunciation, without specification or backing, takes the place of evidence; where orthodoxy chokes freedom of dissent; where faith in the eventual supremacy of reason has become so timid that we dare not enter our convictions in the open lists, to win or lose.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Religious #Eye #Winning

  • Convention is like the shell to the chick, a protection till he is strong enough to break it through.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Strong #Shells #Protection

  • The spirit of liberty is the spirit that is not quite sure it is right.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Freedom #Liberty #Spirit

  • There is no fury like that against one who, we fear, may succeed in making us disloyal to beliefs we hold with passion, but have not really won.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Anger #Passion #Succeed

  • The language of the law must not be foreign to the ears of those who are to obey it.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Law #Political #Ears

  • The mutual confidence on which all else depends can be maintained only by an open mind and a brave reliance upon free discussion.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Brave #Mind #Discussion

  • A self-made man may prefer a self-made name.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Men #Self #Names

  • We may win when we lose, if we have done what we can; for by so doing we have made real at least some part of that finished product in whose fabrication we are most concerned: ourselves.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Real #Winning #Done

  • Life is not a thing of knowing only--nay, mere knowledge has properly no place at all save as it becomes the handmaiden of feeling and emotions.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Knowledge #Knowing #Feelings

  • It was not the violence of our enemies [in World War I] that would undo us, I thought, but our own spiritual weakness, the shallowness of our convictions.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Spiritual #War #Enemy

  • The apathy of the modern voter is the confusion of the modern reformer.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Confusion #Voting #Apathy

  • Tyranny is tyranny, no matter what its form; the free man will resist it if his courage serves.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Men #Matter #Form

  • The public official must pick his way nicely, must learn to placate though not to yield too much, to have the art of honeyed words but not to seem neutral, and above all to keep constantly audible, visible, likable, even kissable.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Art #Yield #Too Much

  • We all have our prayer-wheels which we set up on the steppes. The indifferent winds come and carry most of them away to gasp out their little lives in the desert, for few reach heaven.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Prayer #Wind #Heaven

  • The legal relations between the individual and the community which arise out of the production and distribution of property, comprise by far the greater, and more important, part of the law; subtract these and very little content would be left.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Law #Community #Important

  • For myself it would be most irksome to be ruled by a bevy of Platonic Guardians, even if I knew how to choose them, which I assuredly do not.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Would Be #Guardian #Platonic

  • How long shall we blunder along without the aid of unpartisan and authoritative scientific assistance in the administration of justice, no one knows; but all fair persons not conventionalized by provincial legal habits of mind ought, I should think, unite to effect some change.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Thinking #Long #Justice

  • The art of publicity is a black art.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Art #Black #Publicity

  • We recently had a referendum in New York about extending the forest preserve. The city voted for it by a large majority; yet as I walk the streets I do not see afforestation written with conviction on the harried faces of my fellow citizens.
    -- Learned Hand

    #New York #Cities #Tree

  • It is often hard to secure unanimity about the borders of legislative power, but that is much easier than to decide how far a particular adjustment diverges from what the judges deem tolerable. On such issues experience has over and over again shown the difficulty of securing unanimity. This is disastrous because disunity cancels the impact of monolithic solidarity on which the authority of a bench of judges so largely depends.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Impact #Issues #Judging

  • The public needs the equivalent of Chevrolets as well as Cadillacs.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Needs #Cadillacs #Chevrolet

  • It is still in the lap of the gods whether a society can succeed which is based on "civil liberties and human rights" conceived as I have tried to describe them; but of one thing at least we may be sure: the alternatives that have so far appeared have been immeasurably worse.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Rights #Liberty #Lap

  • The condition of our survival in any but the meagerest existence is our willingness to accommodate ourselves to the conflicting interests of others, to learn to live in a social world.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Survival #World #Social

  • No doubt one may quote history to support any cause, as the devil quotes scripture; but modern history is not a very satisfactory side-arm in political polemics; it grows less and less so.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Support #Political #Doubt

  • It is of course true that any kind of judicial legislation is objectionable on the score of the limited interests which a Court can represent, yet there are wrongs which in fact legislatures cannot be brought to take an interest in, at least not until the Courts have acted.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Facts #Kind #Legislature

  • The judge's authority depends upon the assumption that he speaks with the mouth of others. That is to say, the momentum of his utterances must be greater than any which his personal reputation and character can command, if it is to do the work assigned to it if it is to stand against the passionate resentments arising out of the interests he must frustrate for while a judge must discover some composition with the dominant trends of his times, he must preserve his authority by cloaking himself in the majesty of an overshadowing past.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Character #Past #Judging

  • All discussion, all debate, all dissidence tends to question and in consequence, to upset existing convictions; that is precisely its purpose and its justification.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Upset #Atheism #Purpose

  • Political agitation, by the passions it arouses or the convictions it engenders, may in fact stimulate men to the violation of the law. Detestation of existing policies is easily transformed into forcible resistance of the authority which puts them in execution, and it would be folly to disregard the causal relation between the two. Yet to assimilate agitation, legitimate as such, with direct incitement to violent resistance, is to disregard the tolerance of all methods of political agitation which in normal times is a safeguard of free government.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Passion #Men #Law

  • Those of us who have come to years of discretion and more, must often take to retrospect, and seek to appraise the outcome of our lives.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Maturity #Years #Outcomes

  • Today in America vast concourses of youth are flocking to our colleges, eager for something, just what they do not know.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Learning #College #America

  • Any one may so arrange his affairs that his taxes shall be as low as possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which will best pay the Treasury; there is not even a patriotic duty to increase ones taxes.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Patriotic #May #Patterns

  • As soon as we cease to pry about at random, we shall come to rely upon accredited bodies of authoritative dogma; and as soon as we come to rely upon accredited bodies of authoritative dogma, not only are the days of our liberty over, but we have lost the password that has hitherto opened to us the gates of success as well.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Liberty #Body #Belief

  • The successful competitor, having been urged to compete, must not be turned on when he wins.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Successful #Winning #Competition

  • What to an outsider will be no more than the vigorous presentation of a conviction, to an employee may be the manifestation of a determination which it is not safe to thwart.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Determination #May #Safe

  • The aim of law is the maximum gratification of the nervous system of man.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Men #Law #Nervous

  • It is enough that we set out to mold the motley stuff of life into some form of our own choosing; when we do, the performance is itself the wage.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Mold #Stuff #Enough

  • Life in a great society, or for that matter in a small, is a web of tangled relations of all sorts, whose adjustment so that it may be endurable is an extraordinarily troublesome matter.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Tangled #May #Matter

  • Skepticism is my only gospel, but I don't want to make a dogma out of it.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Want #Dogma #Skepticism

  • Our dangers, as it seems to me, are not from the outrageous but from the conforming; not from those who rarely and under the lurid glare of obloquy upset our moral complaisance, or shock us with unaccustomed conduct, but from those, the mass of us, who take their virtues and their tastes, like their shirts and their furniture, from the limited patterns which the market offers.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Upset #Patterns #Taste

  • Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it. The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interests alongside its own without bias.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Lying #Heart #Men

  • We lose the forest for the trees, forgetting, even so far as we think at all, that we are trustees for those who come after us, squandering the patrimony which we have received.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Thinking #Tree #Forests

  • The fathers who contrived and passed the Consititution were wise in their generation; as time passes, we come more and more to realize their powers of divination.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Wise #Father #Generations

  • Every smallest step of modern industry depends upon a cooperation whose maintenance and regulation is the very stuff of law.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Law #Maintenance #Regulation

  • There is something monstrous in commands couched in invented and unfamiliar language; an alien master is the worst of all. The language of the law must not be foreign to the ears of those who are to obey it.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Law #Ears #Aliens

  • The lawyer must either learn to live more capaciously or be content to find himself continuously less trusted, more circumscribed, till he becomes hardly more important than a minor administrator, confined to a monotonous round of record and routine, without dignity, inspiration, or respect.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Inspiration #Important #Routine

  • Liberty is so much latitude as the powerful choose to accord to the weak.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Powerful #Liberty #Weak

  • The profession of the law of which he [a judge] is a part is charged with the articulation and final incidence of the successive efforts towards justice; it must feel the circulation of the communal blood or it will wither and drop off, a useless member.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Blood #Law #Justice

  • Conservative political opinion in America cleaves to the tradition of the judge as passive interpreter, believing that his absolute loyalty to authoritative law is the price of his immunity from political pressure and of the security of his tenure.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Loyalty #Believe #Law

  • Our common law is the stock instance of a combination of custom and its successive adaptations.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Law #Justice #Common

  • Bipartisan democracy presupposes the individual, whose welfare is identical with that of the community in which he lives, the absence of coherent social classes, a basic uniformity of interest throughout.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Class #Community #Democracy

  • I had rather take my chance that some traitors will escape detection than spread abroad a spirit of general suspicion and distrust, which accepts rumor and gossip in place of undismayed and unintimidated inquiry.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Gossip #Rumor #Inquiry

  • If a community decides that some conduct is prejudicial to itself, and so decides by numbers sufficient to impose its will upon dissenters, I know of no principle which can stay its hand.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Hands #Numbers #Community

  • Would we hold liberty, we must have charity- charity to others, charity to ourselves, crawling up from the moist ovens of a steaming world, still carrying the passional equipment of our ferocious ancestors, emerging from black superstition amid carnage and atrocity to our perilous present.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Black #Liberty #Atrocities

  • Life is made up of a series of judgments on insufficient data, and if we waited to run down all our doubts, it would flow past us.
    -- Learned Hand

    #Running #Past #Data

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