Frank, Jerome, 1889-1957

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1889-09-10
Death 1957-01-13

Biographical notes:

Lawyer, Judge.

From the description of Reminiscences of Jerome New Frank : oral history, 1952. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 309737956

Jerome Frank was born in New York City on September 10, 1889. He graduated from the University of Chicago in 1909 and entered the Illinois bar in 1912. He began writing in the 1920s and moved to New York City in 1929. Frank served as general counsel to the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) from 1933-1935. He also served on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from 1937-1941. Frank was appointed judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 1941. He published several volumes, articles, and other writings until his death in 1957.

From the description of Jerome New Frank papers, 1918-1972 (inclusive), 1929-1957 (bulk). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122563081

From the description of Jerome New Frank papers, 1918-1972 (inclusive), 1929-1957 (bulk). (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 702154945

Jerome Frank was born in New York City on September 10, 1889. He graduated from the University of Chicago in 1909 and entered the Illinois Bar in 1912. He began writing in the 1920s and moved to New York City in 1929. Frank served as general counsel to the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) from 1933-1935. He also served on the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) from 1937-1941. Frank was appointed judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 1941. He published several volumes, articles, and other writings until his death in 1957.

Jerome New Frank was born in New York City, September 10, 1889, the son of Herman and Clara New Frank. Frank's parents were both descendents of German Jews who had come to the United States during the 1840s and the 1850s. Jerome Frank had two sisters, Melanie and Charlotte. When Frank was seven, his father, a successful lawyer, moved his family to Chicago. After attending Hyde Park High School, Frank entered the University of Chicago in 1906 where he studied literature and political science under Charles Edward Merriam. Frank was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and graduated cum laude in 1909. At his father's insistence, Frank entered the University of Chicago Law School in the same year but left soon after entering to become secretary to Charles Merriam who had shortly before been elected a Chicago alderman on a reform ticket. Frank attended committee meetings for and with Merriam and conducted inquiries and investigations for the alderman. Returning to law school after a year as Merriam's secretary, Frank graduated in 1912 with the highest average of any student at the law school up to that time. He was also elected to membership in the Order of the Coif.

Frank was admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1912 and in October of that year began work as a clerk in the Chicago law firm of Newman, Levinson, Becker and Cleveland. In March 1913 Frank became a member of the firm, which had changed its name to Levinson, Becker, Cleveland and Schwartz. The firm specialized in corporate reorganizations and in corporate financial problems. One of the partners in the firm, Salmon O. Levinson, was well known as an advocate of the "outlawry of war" movement and was one of the authors of the Kellogg-Briand Pact. Frank was made a full partner in 1919 and the name of the firm became Levinson, Becker, Schwartz and Frank.

On July 18, 1914, Frank Married Florence Kiper, the daughter of Charles and Gertrude Wise Kiper of Chicago. Florence Kiper was already known in Chicago literary circles as a young poet of some note. Both Frank and his wife were involved in the literary life of Chicago, and their friends and acquaintances included Carl Sandburg, Sherwood Anderson, Harry Hansen, John Gunther, Edgar Lee Masters, Harriet Monroe and Sinclair Lewis. A daughter, Barbara, was born to the Franks on April 10, 1917.

In 1915, Frank was asked by his friend, Ulysses S. Schwartz, to serve on a committee investigating charges made by a resident of Hull House that clothing workers were making so little money that they had to be subsidized by Jewish Charities of Chicago in order to live. The charges were substantiated in the ensuing investigation and the committee issued a report condemning the Chicago clothing manufacturers. Since many of the manufacturers were among the largest contributors to Jewish Charities, the report was not made public.

In 1916 Schwartz was elected a Chicago alderman and again he called on Frank for help, this time in the area of the long-lived Chicago traction disputes. Schwartz was opposed to an ordinance granting a franchise to the street car companies, and with Frank's help mounted a successful attack against the ordinance in the City Council. The ordinance later was passed by referendum. When Schwartz became chairman of the Local Transportation Committee in 1921, he appointed Frank, William H. Sexton and Stephen A. Foster attorneys for the committee. Schwartz and his lawyers produced a plan in which the city would own the traction system, which would be operated by a board of city representatives. The plan was defeated in a referendum in 1925, due in large part to the efforts of Samuel Insull and various political enemies of Reform Mayor William E. Dever. During this period Frank became an unofficial advisor to Mayor Dever. The defeat of the proposed traction ordinance in 1925, however, ended his involvement with the traction problem in Chicago.

During World War I Frank served as an assistant to Joseph P. Cotton who was running the Chicago stockyards for the Food Administration under Herbert Hoover. Cotton, who became undersecretary of state in 1929, was handling meat contracts for the Allied Purchasing Commission. Frank also did some teaching at the University of Chicago Law School during the war, substituting for professors who were in government service.

During the 1920s Frank became deeply interested in Freudian psychology and, on an extended business trip to New York in 1928, underwent six months of intensive psychoanalysis. The analysis aided Frank in overcoming his longstanding dissatisfaction with his career as a lawyer and had a direct and important influence on his first book, Law and the Modern Mind, published in 1930. In this book, Frank explained in terms of Freudian psychology what he thought was man's futile search for certainty in law, specifically, the search for father-authoritative figures. Law and the Modern Mind brought Frank recognition in the academic and legal worlds and established his reputation as a leading proponent of legal realism, a reform movement in law which sought to make judges and courts less dependent on book-law and more responsive to the facts of everyday life.

In 1929 Frank moved with his family to New York and in November of that year he joined the large Wall Street firm of Chadbourne, Stanchfield and Levy. After the publication of Law and the Modern Mind, Frank became friends with some of the members of the faculty of the Yale Law School, including William O. Douglas and Thurman Arnold, and in 1932 he was appointed a research associate there on the Sterling Foundation. During this period, Frank also gave occasional lectures at the New School for Social Research in New York.

After Roosevelt's election to the presidency in 1932, Frank wrote to Felix Frankfurter asking the latter to help him get a job with the new administration. In the spring of 1933 Frank was offered the position of solicitor of the Department of Agriculture. He accepted the job, but his appointment was blocked by James A. Farley who wanted the position for someone else. Frank was then offered the job of general counsel to the Agricultural Adjustment Administration. He accepted and was sworn in on May 12, 1933. Almost immediately a conflict arose between Frank and George N. Peek, administrator of the AAA, who wanted complete control of the agency. Frank insisted that major policy decisions should be subject to the approval of the Secretary of Agriculture, Henry A. Wallace. Tension between the two men increased when Frank succeeded in gaining approval for the creation of a Consumers' Division within AAA. Peek resigned under pressure in December 1933 and was replaced by Chester Davis, but the conflict between the pro-consumer and the pro-farm owner factions grew to such proportions that Davis finally demanded Frank's dismissal. Frank and several of his backers were fired by Secretary Wallace in February 1935.

Prior to joining AAA in 1933, Frank served as a member of the committee headed by Senator Wagner that drafted a version of the National Industrial Recovery Act. The Wagner committee version of the act would have placed a small number of important industries under government codes. This version was rejected (with the exception of section 7a) in favor of one written by General Hugh Johnson and Raymond Moley. Section 7a guaranteed labor the right to engage in collective bargaining and Frank actively lobbied to make sure that it was included in the NIRA. Frank was also responsible for the creation of the Federal Surplus Relief Corporation in 1933, whose function it was to distribute surplus food to those who could not pay for it, as an alternative to the policy of destroying surpluses in the attempt to raise farm prices. Frank served as general counsel of the FSRC until November 1935.

For almost two years (1933-1935) he also served as an informal advisor to Harry Hopkins when Hopkins was head of the Civil Works Administration and the Federal Emergency Relief Administration.

Soon after leaving AAA in 1935, Frank was appointed special counsel for the Reconstruction Finance Corporation in railroad reorganization matters. He held this position until the end of the year. In December 1935 Frank was appointed consulting legal counsel on a per diem basis for the Power Division of the Public Works Administration. When he accepted this position, the government was in danger of losing several important company cases. Private power companies were challenging the government's right to make loans for the development of local public power companies. Frank won major victories for the government in Alabama Power Company v. Ickes (302 U. S. 464) and in Duke Power Company v. Greenwood County (302 U. S. 485).

In 1936 Frank returned to private practice in New York with the firm of Greenbaum, Wolff and Ernst. During the next two years, Frank wrote Save America First, in which he advocated economic and political isolation for the United States, Frank's views on the subject were already changing by the time the book was published in 1938, however, and he recanted his isolationist views completely shortly before America's entrance into World War II.

On the recommendation of William O. Douglas, Frank was made a member of the Securities and Exchange Commission in December 1937. He became chairman of the SEC in May 1939 when Douglas became a Supreme Court justice. The main job of the SEC during this period was the enforcement of the Holding Company Act of 1935. He also served on the Temporary National Economic Committee while he was a member of the SEC. His book, If Men Were Angels, published in 1942, deals with Frank's views on the role of governmental regulatory agencies and was a direct result of his work on the SEC.

Frank was appointed a judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 1941. He joined this historic and important court, which included Judge Learned Hand among its members, on May 5, 1941. He served on the court until his death, distinguishing himself as an outstanding judge in the fields of procedure, finance, criminal law and civil liberties. In 1945 Frank published Fate and Freedom, a treatise on philosophy and history, in Which he assailed deterministic philosophies and natural law doctrines that curtailed individual freedom. In 1946 and again in 1954, he was appointed a visiting lecturer at the New School for Social Research. In 1946 he also received an appointment as a visiting lecturer at Yale Law School, a position he held until his death. There Frank taught a course in fact-finding in which he emphasized the parts that human fallibility and partisanship play in the trial court processes. In 1949 he published a criticism of the trial court system, Courts on Trial, which grew out of a series of lectures given at Princeton University the previous year. In the last years of his life, Frank a1so taught a course at Brandeis University. His last book, Not Guilty, written with his daughter, Barbara, and dealing with men convicted of crimes they did not commit, was published after his death in 1957.

In addition to his books, Frank wrote many articles for law reviews and magazines and delivered a large number of speeches and lectures. He was a member of the Citizens' Committee for Children in New York and a member of the Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences. He served on the Advisory Board of The American Scholar from 1947 to 1952. Frank died of a heart attack in New Haven on January 13, 1957. He was survived by his wife and daughter.

Additional biographical information may be found in Selected Documents from the Papers of Richard Rovere Concerning Jerome Frank, a microfilm of papers in the, Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, of which there is a copy in the Yale University Collection of the Jerome N. Frank Papers. In addition, see The Passionate Liberal: The Political and Legal Ideas of Jerome Frank by Walter E. Volkomer, the Encyclopedia of Social Sciences, and the reminiscences of Jerome Frank recorded by the Columbia Oral History Project.

From the guide to the Jerome New Frank papers, 1918-1972, 1929-1957, (Manuscripts and Archives)

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Subjects:

  • Philosophy
  • Agriculture
  • Practice of law
  • Law--Philosophy
  • Civil rights
  • New Deal, 1933-1939
  • Jews
  • Law
  • Lawyers--Interviews
  • Jews--United States
  • Judicial power
  • Neutrality

Occupations:

  • Educators
  • Public officers
  • Judges
  • Philosophers
  • Lawyers
  • Authors

Places:

  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)