Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



Learned Hand stands among the great judges of the Anglo-American legal tradition. He is preeminently the judge's judge. His long judicial career, spanning one of the crucial periods in the development of American law, and his long service on the bench in a circuit where crucial legal issues come into final focus and where a major part of the commercial law of the nation is first enunciated and explained, peculiarly fit him for the task of explaining the judge's function in the American system of law and the court's role in our jural order. His own legal experience, his non-official writings, brief as they are, and his official opinions are the sources from which his views as to the limits of judicial discretion may be determined.

Sir Frederic Pollock has said that "the duty of the courts is to keep the rules of law in harmony with the enlightened, common sense of the nation,"' for the accomplishment of which caution and valor are both needed, caution in making advances which have not become generally acceptable and valor in dispensing with technical difficulties and in overriding what is merely a show of authority on the part of current opinion. If this be the true measure of judicial activity, certainly Judge Learned Hand has filled nicely the judge's role. He has achieved this happy balance between caution and valor which is at once the hallmark and the insignium of merit of great judges.