Bickel, Alexander Mordecai

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps

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Alexander Mordecai Bickel was a noted legal scholar, law professor, and essayist who wrote extensively about CONSTITUTIONAL LAW issues and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Bickel was born December 17, 1924, in Bucharest, Romania, and immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1939. He attended the City College of New York, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1947, and Harvard Law School, where he served as editor of the Harvard Law Review and graduated summa cum laude in 1949.

Following law school, Bickel clerked for Judge Calvert Magruder of the U.S. Court of

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Appeals in Boston. From 1950 to 1952 he was a STATE DEPARTMENT law officer in Frankfurt, Germany, and he was a member of the European Defense Community Observer Delegation in Paris. He returned to the United States to become law clerk to Justice FELIX FRANKFURTER during the U.S. Supreme Court's 1952?53 term.

Bickel assisted Justice Frankfurter in the Court's consideration of the landmark desegregation decision in BROWN V. BOARD OF EDUCATION, 349 U.S. 483, 74 S. Ct. 686, 98 L. Ed. 873 (1954). The plaintiffs in Brown challenged the assignment of black and white students to separate public schools. The Court held that such racial SEGREGATION in public education was unconstitutional. During his clerkship with Frankfurter, Bickel studied the FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT extensively and concluded that the Constitution did provide that congressional or judicial action could be used to abolish school segregation.

After completing his clerkship with Justice Frankfurter, Bickel joined the faculty of Yale Law School, in 1956. He was named Chancellor Kent Professor of Law and Legal History in 1966, and Sterling Professor of Law in 1974, the year of his death.

Bickel wrote a number of influential books and essays. In addition to longer works, he published more than a hundred articles in newspapers and magazines. He edited The Unpublished Opinions of Mr. Justice Brandeis, a volume of eleven Brandeis draft opinions concerning the issue of judicial restraint, a major theme in much of Bickel's later writings. In his most influential work, The Least Dangerous Branch: The Supreme Court at the Bar of Politics (1963), Bickel argued that courts should make decisions that are grounded in history and in the values found in the Constitution, and should not make decisions that cannot gain public support. He believed that judges should exercise care to avoid deciding constitutional...

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