Vanderbilt Law Review


Julius Paul

First Page



Justice Holmes' famous statement that "the life of the law has not been logic: it has been experience' has had a profound effect on contemporary American jurisprudence. Holmes' monumental influence, together with the impact of positivism, American pragmatism,and more recently, psychoanalysis, have all played important roles in shaping the development of the school of American legal realism.

One of the most controversial and provocative members of this school was Jerome Frank, who was not only a prolific writer on matters legal, but also an eminent corporation lawyer, a government counsel, an administrator (a Commissioner and later Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission), a law teacher, and a highly respected Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit from May, 1941, until his death in January, 1957.

Jerome Frank's fundamental idea is concerned with what he calls the "basic legal myth of rule certainty." Frank believes that the worship of legal rules is a carry-over into adult life of father-worship. According to his argument, the law becomes a father-substitute, with a corresponding preservation of childish thought-patterns. Although Frank will admit the necessity and the value of some legal rules, the exaggerated belief that these rules can guarantee legal certainty is for him the worst "sin" of modern jurisprudence. In the development of this idea, Frank is perhaps the first major writer -in jurisprudence to draw consciously on a concept of psychoanalysis.

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