Myths of the Brandeis Brief

My latest article in the Green Bag (link will open seven-page PDF file):

(1) First, social reform was not in nearly as much danger from Lochner as the standard story suggests….

(2) The supposed simple-minded formalism of late nineteenth and early twentieth century judges has been called into serious question by recent scholarship….

(3) Brandeis’s Muller brief was not as original as his admirers have suggested….

(4) Brandeis’s brief was not as bold as often portrayed, because Oregon’s attorney general filed a traditional brief focusing on the relevant legal precedents….

(5) Brandeis’s brief, rather than being a social science masterpiece, consisted largely of a “hodgepodge” of reports of factory or health inspectors, testimony before legislative investigating committees, statutes, quotes from medical texts, among other miscellany. Some of the “scientific” arguments presented in the brief are nonsensical, even given the state of medical knowledge at the time….

(6) Brandeis’s brief likely did not influence a single vote on the Supreme Court….

(7) While Brandeis Briefs quickly became commonplace in constitutional litigation over social reform, such briefs did not have any clear significant effect on the outcome of Progressive-era cases….

Bonus myth: Despite many assertions to the contrary, Brandeis evinced little interest in women’s legal equality, and was at best a very tepid supporter of women’s rights.