What is the Brandeis Brief?

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  • Written By: Patrick Roland
  • Edited By: Kathryn Hulick
  • Last Modified Date: 01 February 2020
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The Brandeis Brief is a term for a legal brief that utilizes the expertise of any individual outside of the legal profession. This brief was first used by attorney Louis Brandeis during a controversial 1908 trial. Its result changed the way courts conducted cases in the United States. This case escalated Brandeis' status and launched him into a successful career dealing with the United States Supreme Court. He even had a law school named in his honor.

This pioneering legal brief is normally used as an appellate brief and is a combination of legal expertise and expertise from another field. Frequently, scientific, psychological, sociological and economic experts will provide testimony to aid an attorney's legal perspective. The Brandeis Brief did not rely solely on legal theory, but brought in evidence from the outside world, something that was never attempted before Brandeis' landmark case.

The case in question was Muller v. Oregon and occurred in the United States Supreme Court in 1908. The case revolved around creating separate working conditions and hours for women and men in laundry facilities. Using hundreds of outside sources, Brandeis convinced the Supreme Court that women were inferior and weaker than men, in terms of their ability to work. The result was a law that set a maximum amount of time for a workday for a female laundry worker. The reverberations of the Brandeis Brief were felt in some of the United States' most famous cases.


After this drastic change in legal theory, the Brandeis Brief type of litigation found its way into countless courtrooms. Lawyers and judges were not only relying on legal expertise, but an ability to draw data from a multitude of sources. One of the most famous uses of the Brandeis Brief was in the case Brown v. Board of Education. During this trial, psychological experts were called upon to testify in regards to the hazardous psychological effects of segregation on children.

Brandeis was a successful attorney prior to creating the brief, but after its inception his career grew. The culmination of his career was being named an associate justice to the United States Supreme Court from 1916 to 1939. Brandeis became so well known and popular he was given a variety of nicknames, including "The People's Lawyer" and "Robin Hood of the Law." A native of Louisville, KY, the man was honored by the University of Louisville when it renamed its law school the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law.


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Post 1

Thanks for the reminder -- there was a time when using outside experts to bolster a case just wasn't done. The Brandeis Brief's groundbreaking use of expert analysis to fortify a legal position seems about as commonplace as sliced bread now, but it was revolutionary at the time.

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