Benjamin Nathan Cardozo, unarguably one of the most outstanding judges of the twentieth century, is a man whose name remains prominent and whose contributions to the law remain relevant. This first complete biography of the longtime member and chief judge of the New York Court of Appeals and Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States during the turbulent years of the New Deal is a monumental achievement by a distinguished interpreter of constitutional law.
Cardozo was a progressive judge who understood and defended the proposition that judge-made law must be adapted to modern conditions. He also preached and practiced the doctrine that respect for precedent, history, and all branches of government limited what a judge could and should do. Thus, he did not modernize law at every opportunity.
In this book, Andrew Kaufman interweaves the personal and professional lives of this remarkable man to yield a multidimensional whole. Cardozo’s family ties to the Jewish community were a particularly significant factor in shaping his life, as was his father’s scandalous career—and ultimate disgrace—as a lawyer and judge. Kaufman concentrates, however, on Cardozo’s own distinguished career, including twenty-three years in private practice as a tough-minded and skillful lawyer and his classic lectures and writings on the judicial process. From this biography emerges an estimable figure holding to concepts of duty and responsibility, but a person not without frailties and prejudice.