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Harry A. Blackmun (1908-1999)

William J. Brennan, Jr. Defense of Freedom Award Recipient, 1995

Associate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court
(1970- 1994)


I was delighted indeed to learn that the Libel Defense Resource Center has selected my long-time colleague and good friend, Justice Harry A. Blackmun, as this year's recipient of its Defense of Freedom Award. A tireless and vigilant defender of freedom, and a dedicated protector of those often unable to protect themselves, Justice Blackmun is a worthy recipient of this distinct honor. He has taught all of us that good judgment can flourish only when fed with compassion, humanity, and dignity, and we are better for this lesson.

In his many years as a Court of Appeals Judge, and as a member of the Supreme Court,Harry Blackmun was a spirited guardian of freedom of speech. Although his contributions in the area are well-documented, I find particularly noteworthy, and indicative of his influence generally, Justice Blackmun's work in the area of commercial speech. His many fine opinions on the subject - from his seminal decision in Bigelow v. Virginia, 421 U.S. 809 (1975), to his landmark opinion in Virginia State Board of Pharmacy v. Virginia Citizens Consumer Council, 425 U.S. 748 (1976), to his powerful concurrence in Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp. v. Public Service Commission, 447 U.S. 557, 573 (1980) (Blackmun, J., joined by Brennan J., concurring in the judgment) - reaffirmed a tenet central to our Bill of Rights: the freedom to speak, in all contexts, without interference from the government, is an intrinsic ingredient of a vibrant democracy.

It is a privilege and a pleasure to congratulate Harry on this richly deserved honor.

From Justice William J. Brennan, Jr.

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