Hand, Learned

Hand, Learned

(lûr`nəd), 1872–1961, American jurist, b. Albany, N.Y. He received his law degree from Harvard in 1896. He was a judge of the U.S. District Court for New York's Southern District (1909–24) and of the federal Second Circuit Court of Appeals (1924–51). Often called the "tenth justice of the Supreme Court," and regarded as one of the finest jurists in American history, Hand delivered more than 2,000 opinions, and was noted especially as a defender of free speech. He is the author of The Spirit of Liberty, a collection of papers and addresses (1952), and of The Bill of Rights, a series of lectures (1958).


See selected correspondence ed. by C. Jordan (2013); biography by G. Gunther (2d ed. 2010).

Hand, (Billings) Learned

(1872–1961) jurist; born in Albany, N.Y. The son and grandson of judges (and cousin of Augustus Hand), he graduated from Harvard in 1893 and from Harvard Law School three years later. A bookish boy, he grew into a skeptical, open-minded adult. He practiced in Albany and in New York City until 1909, when he received an appointment as U.S. district judge for the Southern District of New York. In a 52-year career as district judge (1909–24), appeals court judge (1924–39), and chief judge (1939–51) of the 2nd U.S. Court of Appeals, he issued some 3,000 opinions touching virtually every area of law. His opinions were so highly regarded that he became known as the 10th judge of the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1944, in a neat summary of his own intellectual approach, he declared: "The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right." In a series of lectures at Harvard near the end of his life, he warned the judiciary not to exceed its constitutional authority by attempting to legislate from the bench.
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