This Article analyzes the jurisprudence of one of the most transformative Supreme Court Justices, William J. Brennan, Jr., from the perspective of his vision that the United States Constitution is founded on Human Dignity. Justice Brennan expressed this principle in his opinions that advanced the realization of individual rights for each and every American. The principle of human dignity invokes the values of equality and liberty. The article shows that Justice Brennan traced the principle of human dignity back to the Founding Fathers and the constitutional government that they established. Rather than being unhinged from the Constitution as his critics allege, Justice Brennan’s jurisprudence is firmly grounded in the Constitution. The Article demonstrates this by examining the constitutional principles held by James Wilson who signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. This Article analyzes Justice Brennan’s leading decisions in the areas of criminal procedure, equal protection, freedom of speech, and a right to privacy as expressions of the values of equality and liberty. The Article concludes with a consideration of how a Constitution based on human dignity informs contemporary issues including Same-Sex Marriage, Affirmative Action, and Campaign Finance Regulation. Justice Brennan’s advancement of human dignity through the law is a remarkable achievement that should remain relevant to current American jurisprudence.
Deborah A. Roy,
Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., James Wilson, and the Pursuit of Equality and Liberty,
61 Clev. St. L. Rev.
available at https://engagedscholarship.csuohio.edu/clevstlrev/vol61/iss3/6