Hart, Henry M., Jr. (1904–1969)

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HART, HENRY M., JR. (1904–1969)

At Harvard Law School, Henry Hart was a disciple of felix frankfurter. After a clerkship with Justice louis d. brandeis, Hart returned to Harvard as a member of the law faculty, where he remained—with an interruption during world war ii—all his life.

Hart was one of a handful of the most authoritative academic lawyers of his time. He was, above all, a teacher; his most important scholarship is embodied in two books designed for law school courses. In The Federal Courts and the Federal System (1953), co-authored with Herbert Wechsler, Hart introduced students to a conception of the functions of the federal judiciary that still dominates the thinking of courts and commentators. In The Legal Process (1958), co-authored with Albert Sacks, Hart expounded a view of the role of courts in lawmaking focused on "reasoned elaboration" of principle. For a generation that view was so influential that today's critics speak of a "legal process school" as the focus for their attack.

For Hart, reason was "the life of the law." His intellectual integrity was legendary. Nor was the integrity merely intellectual. He was a decent man, as generous and humane in personal dealings as he was formidable in print. During his last illness, he continued to meet his classes until he was physically unable to get to the classroom. To the end, he taught everyone around him.

Kenneth L. Karst


Hart, Henry M., Jr. 1971 Southern California Law Review 44: i-x, 305–498.