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Benjamin Nathan Cardozo

Benjamin Nathan Cardozo was an American jurist. He served on the New York Court of Appeals and later as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. He is remembered for his significant influence on the development of American common law in the 20th century.


  • He was born in New York, where his family, descendants of prominent Sephardi Jews, had settled prior to the American Revolution. His father was a justice in New York State supreme court.

  • Education

    • Benjamin’s childhood was molded by tutors who came to the Cardozo home to instruct the children. Throughout his life he was most devoted to his family and especially to his older sister, Nel, who brought him up after both parents died when he was quite young. He never married and lived with Nel until her death. Cardozo was deeply affected by the disgrace involved when his father — who had Tammany Hall connections—had to resign from the supreme court in 1872 under threat of impeachmant.


    • He studied at Columbia Law School, and upon graduation in 1891, was admitted to the New York State bar, where he practiced law until elected as a reform candidate to the supreme court of New York State in 1913. He served as associate judge of the Court of Appeals (New York State’s highest court) for fourteen years, was chief judge of the Court of Appeals from 1927, and was appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1932.

      At thirty-three he published his first book, "The Jurisdiction of the Court of Appeals of the Slate of New York", considered to be the authoritative work on the subject. This was followed by "The Nature of the Judicial Process" (1921), a collection of the Storrs Lectures at Yale University, and "The Growth of Law" (1924), another series of lectures discussing constructive legal philosophy, methods of judging, and the functions and ends of law. "Paradoxes of Legal Science" (1928) is a collection of lectures delivered at Columbia University. His last book was "Law and Literature" (1931) containing essays and addresses. His Selected Writings (ed. M. E. Hall) appeared in 1947.

    Major achievements

    • Benjamin Cardozo has been ranked as one of the ten foremost judges in American judicial history. His skill and learning helped to make the New York Court of Appeals the leading state court in the nation. He made a lasting contribution in the U.S. Supreme Court because of his ability to join legal rule and social need. Cardozo was a defender of New Deal social legislation.


    Cardozo was an active member of the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in New York. He took a great interest in Jewish education and was involved in the activities of the Jewish Educational Association. He ardently believed in Americanism and remained aloof from Zionism in its early stages, but events in Europe during the 1930s led him to see the value of Palestine as a haven for the oppressed of his people.


    He has been described as a charming, lovable man with a highly sensitive nature and a scholar with a brilliant mind.


    • father: Albert Cardozo
    • mother: Rebecca Nathan Cardozo
    Benjamin Cardozo
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    Born May 24, 1870
    Died July 9, 1938
    (aged 68)
    • 1927 - 1932
      Chief Judge of the New York Court of Appeals
    • 1932 - 1938
      Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States