While on the Supreme Court bench, Brandeis offered a classic dissenting opinion in the case of Olmstead vs United States. He argued that wiretapping, although it wasn't an invasion of the private home, nevertheless invaded upon the right to be let alone with your private conversations even if Olmstead was a notorious millionaire bootlegger. In Whitney v. California, Brandeis, with the other 8 Supreme Court Judges, upheld the conviction of Anita Whitney for being a communist (and therefore advocating the violent overthrow of the government, although Whitney denied this intention) but elaborated the necessity to define and establish that there was a 'clear and present danger' before anyone was arrested for expressing an opinion. "Fear of serious injury cannot alone justify suppression of free speech and assembly. Men feared witches and burnt women. It is the function of free speech to free men from bondage of irrational fears".
A few more soundbytes from Brandeis (clearly we need to read some more of his opinions because they have been eroded in detail in the 70+ years since he died):
- "We must make our choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
- “America has believed that in differentiation, not in uniformity, lies the path of progress. It acted on this belief; it has advanced human happiness, and it has prospered.”
- “Experience teaches us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government's purposes are beneficent.”
- “I abhor averages. I like the individual case. A man may have six meals one day and none the next, making an average of three meals per day, but that is not a good way to live.”
- “If we would guide by the light of reason we must let our minds be bold.”
- “Most of the things worth doing in the world had been declared impossible before they were done.”
- “The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in the insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding.”