A Georgetown University law professor and Guggenheim fellow, Brad Snyder teaches constitutional law, sports law, and twentieth century American legal history and has written books and law review articles about the history of the Supreme Court. His forthcoming book, Democratic Justice: Felix Frankfurter, the Supreme Court, and the Making of the Liberal Establishment (W.W. Norton, August 23, 2022), is the first comprehensive biography of the Harvard Law School professor, New Deal power broker, and Supreme Court justice. Frankfurter believed that the American people should turn to their elected officials, not the Court, to resolve hot-button political issues. He adapted the theory of judicial restraint of his mentors Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. and Louis Brandeis to prevent racial discrimination, he encouraged generations of former students and law clerks to enter public service, and he befriended American presidents from Theodore Roosevelt to Lyndon Johnson. Snyder’s biography taps into newly discovered primary sources and interviews with the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg and other legal luminaries. In 2019, Snyder was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in Constitutional Studies which enabled him to complete a first draft of Democratic Justice.
Snyder’s previous book, The House of Truth: A Washington Political Salon and the Foundations of American Liberalism (Oxford University Press, 2017), tells the story of a Dupont Circle political salon known as the House of Truth. The house became popular because Frankfurter and other disenchanted Taft administration officials wanted ex-President Theodore Roosevelt to challenge his hand-picked successor Taft and to return to the White House. Frankfurter and Walter Lippmann lived at the house; Holmes and Brandeis were regular guests. The book explores how the people associated with the house contributed to the development of a network of American liberals from 1912–1933 and how liberalism thrived during the 1920s and early 1930s as an opposition movement. The book features four main characters and regulars at the House of Truth: Frankfurter, Lippmann, Holmes, and sculptor Gutzon Borglum of Mount Rushmore fame. The Wall Street Journal said of The House of Truth: “Brad Snyder . . . has used their common living quarters and intimate fellowship as an organizing principle for a lengthy, lively and exhaustively researched study of their impact on American liberalism from 1912 to 1934.” The Atlantic Monthly said: “Snyder’s account usefully maps a hinge moment in American political history.” The House of Truth was featured on C-SPAN’S Book TV and Brian Lamb’s Book Notes. Snyder spoke about the book to the Supreme Court Historical Society and was introduced by Justice Ginsburg.
In recent years, Snyder has written numerous law review articles about constitutional history and is a member of the board of editors of the Journal of Supreme Court History. He has contributed to Politico, Slate, and the Washington Post and has made numerous appearances on radio and television and in documentaries. Snyder began his law teaching career at the University of Wisconsin, where he taught for nine years before joining the Georgetown law faculty in the fall of 2017.
Prior to teaching law, Snyder wrote A Well-Paid Slave: Curt Flood’s Fight for Free Agency in Professional Sports (Viking/Penguin, 2006). A Well-Paid Slave tells the story of Curt Flood, an all-star center fielder for the St. Louis Cardinals who balked at being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies and took baseball to the Supreme Court. Flood sued baseball over the “reserve clause,” a contractual provision that bound the players to their teams for life. Although the Court narrowly ruled against Flood, his lawsuit paved the way for free agency. The New York Times Book Review said: “Generations of ballplayers — Curt Flood’s children — have never honored him properly. But with his fine book, Brad Snyder surely has.” George F. Will said: “Brad Snyder shows why Flood was Dred Scott in spikes.” The Washington Post named it among the top 100 books of 2006. The Huffington Post named it one of the 51 greatest baseball books of all time. A Well-Paid Slave also received favorable reviews in the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, and Sports Illustrated. Snyder and his book were prominently featured in the 2011 HBO Sports documentary, The Curious Case of Curt Flood.
Snyder’s first book, Beyond the Shadow of the Senators: The Untold Story of the Homestead Grays and the Integration of Baseball (Contemporary Books, 2003), recounts the story of the Homestead Grays, one of the greatest teams in the history of the Negro Leagues. From 1940 to 1950, the Grays played their home games at Griffith Stadium when the Washington Senators, one of the worst teams in the major leagues, were out of town. The contrast between the two teams made Washington, D.C. the focal point of the black press’s campaign to integrate major league baseball. The New York Times Book Review wrote that Snyder “gives a rich panorama of Washington as it evolved from a Southern provincial town to a large city with a black majority . . . Snyder’s book is not just the history of a team but the tale of one city in all its social complexity.” Beyond the Shadow of the Senators received starred advance reviews from Publishers Weekly (“Well-documented and enjoyable… a fascinating and largely untold story.”) and Booklist (“A fascinating little-known chapter in the familiar story of baseball’s color line.”). Booklist also named Beyond the Shadow of the Senators one of the 10 best African-American non-fiction books of 2003. Beyond the Shadow of the Senators began as Snyder’s prize-winning senior honors thesis at Duke University, where he double majored in history and Afro-American studies.
As a Duke undergraduate, Snyder wrote about the men’s basketball team for the Washington Post and published articles about college basketball in Basketball America and the Raleigh News and Observer. He also covered Tampa cops and courts for a summer at the St. Petersburg Times and worked as a research assistant on two sports books, Hard Courts and Play Ball, by best-selling author John Feinstein.
After graduating from Duke in 1994, Snyder spent two years as a reporter at the Baltimore Sun, where he covered the Baltimore Orioles for a season and a half, as well as Baltimore city crime and Capitol Hill. While covering the Orioles, Snyder wrote a fourteen-part series on Cal Ripken Jr. during the season Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games streak. At the Sun, Snyder decided to go to law school after witnessing his first Supreme Court oral argument about a pro football labor dispute argued by Ken Starr.
A 1999 Yale Law School graduate, Snyder served as a law clerk for the Honorable Dorothy W. Nelson on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. For nearly three years, he worked as an associate at Williams and Connolly LLP, a Washington, D.C. law firm, until he left to write A Well-Paid Slave.
Snyder lives on Capitol Hill with his wife, Shelby, and their two children.