Friday, September 3, 2010

The Mind of a Zionist

Louis Brandeis has been described as "A Robin Hood of the law" (The Economist, 26th September, 2009). And well might he be called that, for one of his cases has gone down in history as a fight for the little man, or, rather, the little woman.

Curt Muller, a laundry owner, was charged in 1905 with permitting a supervisor to require Mrs. E. Gotcher to work more than 10 hours and was fined $10.An Oregon law passed in 1903 prohibited women from working more than 10 hours in one day. The case went to the Supreme Court, where Muller's lawyer argued that the statute violated Mrs. Gotcher's Fourteenth Amendment right to due process by preventing her from freely contracting with her employer.

Brandeis produced data to establish that women needed to work fewer hours than men: the court agreed, stating that a woman “is properly placed in a class by herself, and legislation designed for her protection may be sustained, even when like legislation is not necessary for men, and could not be sustained.”

Again, in 1905, to remedy abuses by life-insurance firms, Brandeis devised a system, used in Massachusetts (from 1907), New York, and Connecticut, whereby life insurance was offered over the counter by savings banks at rates within the means of the average working man.

He became known as the people's attorney.

He was the first Jew to sit on the US Supreme Court (1916 - 1939). He must have been a remarkably sensitive as well as intelligent person. Although never a practicing Jew, he dedicated himself to supporting the Zionist cause of setting up a Jewish state in Palestine.

A man of his sensitivity must have lamented the lot of the American Indians as well as that of the Arabs who were to be displaced. It seems not.

He wrote: "As against the Bedouins, our pioneers are in a position not unlike the American settlers against the Indians."

He had an atom of pity for neither the Native Americans nor the Arabs: truly, a people's attorney, a veritable Robin Hood of the Law.

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