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Frank, Jerome New

FRANK, JEROME NEW

FRANK, JEROME NEW (1889–1957), U.S. jurist and legal philosopher. Frank, who was born in New York City, practiced law in Chicago and New York City before being appointed general counsel to the Agricultural Adjustment Administration by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933. Subsequently, he was appointed to important executive positions with the Federal Surplus Relief Corporation, the Reconstruction Finance Commission, and the Public Works Administration. As one of the more imaginative and articulate administrators of the New Deal program of President Roosevelt, he was often embroiled in argument and litigation in its defense, especially in the use of public power. Retiring to private practice in 1937, he was recalled by President Roosevelt in 1939 as commissioner and then chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission. There, he played an important role in reorganizing the New York Stock Exchange. He also instituted new programs for public-utility holding companies under the 1935 Act. President Roosevelt named him to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in 1941. He remained on the bench, and lectured at Yale Law School as well, until his death.

Basically a "legal realist," Frank developed the juristic concept of fact-skepticism, or the continuous questioning of factual assumptions to expose the realities of the judicial process. Legal philosophers, he insisted, should not think only in terms of law to determine whether justice prevails in any given case, but rather to concentrate on the processes by which facts are found and judged. Fact-skepticism led him to infer that the jury was an inept institution and that it ought to be abolished. He also warned against relying on jury verdicts to inflict capital punishment. Frank sought through fact-skepticism to liberalize and reform the trial process. He developed his thoughts in challenging and provocative books entitled Law and the Modern Mind (1930) and Courts on Trial (1949), as well as in many law review articles. In 1945 he wrote Fate and Freedom, in which he attacked Freud's deterministic psychology, Marxism, and natural-law doctrines as endangering individual freedom and moral responsibility. In If Men Were Angels (1942), Frank replied to critics of the new administrative agencies of the New Deal. In Not Guilty (1957), written with his daughter, he commented on a number of cases in which innocent people were convicted of crimes.

[Julius J. Marcke]

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