Ernst, Morris L. Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

An attorney who fought against censorship and supported reproductive freedom, Ernst developed strategies and arguments that garnered civil liberties victories in the Supreme Court.

Ernst’s parents moved to New York City when he was two, and he grew up there. He graduated from Williams College in 1909 and completed his law degree at New York Law School in 1912. Three years later, he began a law practice that concentrated on cases involving censorshipCensorship law and questions of artistic freedom. He gained national fame when he argued the case to have James Joyce’s novel UlyssesUlysses (Joyce)[Ulysses] (1922) admitted to the United States. Ernst succeeded in having the case heard by a sympathetic judge who ruled that the publication of the book in the United States should be allowed because of its literary merits. Ernst’s arguments provided the basis for later Supreme Court rulings in cases involving the rights of artists to be free of censorship. For the rest of his career, Ernst served as a general counsel for the American Civil Liberties UnionAmerican Civil Liberties Union and for the Planned Parenthood Federation. In both roles, he argued for freedom of thought and expression. Behind the scenes, he cooperated with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in identifying and exposing communists. A prolific author, Ernst wrote The Great Reversals (1973), a volume that explored cases in which the Court had changed its earlier rulings. He was a strong admirer and confidant of Justice Louis D. Brandeis.Ernst, Morris L.

Abortion

American Civil Liberties Union

Brandeis, Louis D.

Censorship

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