In teaching con law this semester, I was struck by something that crosses my mind every so often. Felix Frankfurter was obviously an influential teacher, scholar, political advisor, and judge. He was also a fearless advocate for liberal causes in situations such as the Sacco and Vanzetti case.
At the risk of incurring the wrath of Harvard, though, he was a terrible writer. I wince every time I have to read one of his opinions. They’re often meandering, filled with irrelevant commentary, and hard to understand. His academic prose, unfortunately, isn’t any better. (His colleague Robert H. Jackson blows him away in this respect.)
Indeed, I’d be hard pressed to name a single Frankfurter opinion that is influential today.