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Brandeis Brief

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Description: Lengthy summarization of a case before the Supreme Court prepared by Louis D. Brandeis in defense of an Oregon law that limited the length of the workday for women in certain industries.


Significance: The Brandeis Brief was a defining moment in the history of the Supreme Court. Instead of limiting his defense of reform legislation to current law, Brandeis used Progressive social and economic values as the basis for his defense. The success of his effort led to his methodology being employed by many others.


Eight years before he joined the Supreme Court himself, Brandeis gained national attention with the lengthy brief he prepared while counsel for the defense in Muller v. Oregon (1908). A Progressive, Brandeis was retained to defend Oregon's 1903 reform law limiting the length of the workday for women in certain industries. After a cursory two-page review of the legal issues, Brandeis advanced a comprehensive and persuasive argument that validated the Oregon law. Supported by a team of researchers, Brandeis used statistics, medical reports, and other studies to develop a brief that reflected the sociological approach favored by Progressivism. The court found in favor of his brief, thereby giving tacit approval to this method of argumentation. President Woodrow Wilson appointed Brandeis as associate justice on the Supreme Court in 1916.