The Law: The Court's Uncompromising Libertarian

William O. Douglas was the court's most undeviating liberal voice right up to his sudden retirement last week. In his later years, some critics came to view Douglas as a dangerous radical. Yet Douglas did not see the court as a tool for radical social change, "but rather as a mechanism to keep open the democratic process," says Yale Law Professor Thomas I. Emerson. To this end his decisions supported free speech, the broadest possible interpretation of individual constitutional rights and, less often noted, far-reaching Government power to regulate the economy.

The free-speech issue was particularly easy for him. He simply saw...

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