Learned Hand

Jurist, Judge

1872 – 1961

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Who was Learned Hand?

Billings Learned Hand was a United States judge and judicial philosopher. He served on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York and later the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Hand has been quoted more often than any other lower-court judge by legal scholars and by the Supreme Court of the United States.

Born and raised in Albany, New York, Hand majored in philosophy at Harvard College and graduated with honors from Harvard Law School. After a short career as a lawyer in Albany and New York City, he was appointed at the age of 37 as a Federal District Judge in Manhattan in 1909. The profession suited his detached and open-minded temperament, and his decisions soon won him a reputation for craftsmanship and authority. Between 1909 and 1914, under the influence of Herbert Croly's social theories, Hand supported New Nationalism. He ran unsuccessfully as the Progressive Party's candidate for Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals in 1913, but withdrew from active politics shortly afterwards. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge promoted Hand to the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which he went on to lead as the Senior Circuit Judge from 1939 until his semi-retirement in 1951. Scholars have recognized the Second Circuit under Hand as one of the finest appeals courts in the country's history. Friends and admirers often lobbied for Hand's promotion to the Supreme Court, but circumstances and his political past conspired against his appointment.

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Born
Jan 27, 1872
Albany
Also known as
  • Judge Learned Hand
  • Hand, Learned
Spouses
Children
Religion
  • Agnosticism
  • Protestantism
Nationality
  • United States of America
Profession
Education
  • Harvard University
  • Harvard Law School
  • Harvard College
Lived in
  • Albany
Died
Aug 18, 1961
New York City

Submitted
on July 23, 2013