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It is a great honor to take part in the celebration of the Second Circuit’s 125th anniversary and in particular to present the Hands Lecture. The Second Circuit in the 1930s and 1940s came to be called the “Hand Court,” and during those years it established its reputation as the most admired of the U.S. circuit courts of appeals. It was called the Hand Court because two of its judges, who often formed the majority on three-judge panels, bore the surname Hand. They were cousins. Augustus Hand was a few years older than Learned Hand but was appointed to the bench somewhat later.

In recent years, far more attention has been given to Learned Hand. This does not necessarily mean he was the better judge. Justice Robert Jackson once quipped that he advised new federal district judges, “always to quote Learned and always to follow Gus.” This was probably intended to suggest that Augustus Hand was by no means the lesser judge, in terms of showing consistent good judgment. Yet with apologies to Augustus Hand, the focus of my remarks today will be on his younger cousin, Learned. Learned Hand was more of a public figure and much more given to sharing his thoughts in public venues than his cousin. So for my purposes, there is much more to say about him.


Courts | Judges | Law