One of the great men of our time, Justice William J. Brennan, has died. Brennan was appointed by President Eisenhower to the United States Supreme Court. He became the second longest serving justice. He retired in 1990.
There is probably no man of this century who has a more direct effect on our daily lives today. While other justices have had their decisions chipped away and eroded by the mediocre crew now sitting on the United States Supreme Court, Brennan's decisions have largely stood and are still the law.
Brennan has often been said to be a member of the "liberal wing" of the United States Supreme Court. However, this misstates what the term "liberal" means. Brennan's decisions stood for the rights of the individual against the immense power of the state, hardly a liberal concept. Brennan was a true conservative in the traditional sense.
Brennan's decisions were brilliantly crafted. He did not hesitate to add a sharp word about governmental abuses of authority.
Justice Brennan had good things to say about Sam Sloan, who argued an appeal before him on March 27-28, 1978. Here is part of what Justice Brennan had to say about Sloan:
"The Court's opinion does not reveal how flagrantly abusive the Security and Exchange Commission's use of its authority has been. . . . A 1-year suspension as here, without notice or hearing so obviously violates fundamentals of due process and fair play that no reasonable individual could suppose that Congress intended to authorize such a thing. ... The SEC's procedural implementation of its § 12(k) power mocks any conclusion other than that the SEC simply could not care whether its § 12(k) orders are justified. So far as this record shows, the SEC never reveals the reasons for its suspension order. To be sure, here respondent [ Sam Sloan ] was able long after the fact to obtain some explanation through a Freedom of Information Act request, but even the information tendered was heavily excised, and none of it even purports to state the reasoning of the Commissioners under whose authority orders issue. Nonetheless, when the SEC finally agreed to give [Sloan] a hearing on the suspension of Canadian Javelin stock, it required respondent [Sloan] to state, in a verified petition (that is, under oath) why he thought the unrevealed conclusions of the SEC to be wrong. This is obscurantism run riot.
"I fear our holding today will have no force since the SEC's administration of its suspension power will be reviewable, if at all, only by the circuitous and time-consuming path followed by [Sloan] here."
It took me seven years to win this case, by the way.
Chief Justice William Rehnquist, in the same case, wrote that "[Sam Sloan] has, to put it mildly, a history of sailing close to the wind." [436 US 109]
For the full text of these opinions, see: S.E.C. vs. Sloan, 436 US 103 (1978).
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