Benjamin Cardozo Biography, Life, Interesting Facts


Benjamin Cardozo

Birthday :

May 24, 1870

Died On :

July 9, 1938

Also Known For :


Birth Place :

New York City, New York, United States of America

Zodiac Sign :


Benjamin Cardozo was a well-known American jurist. He put in a significant contribution to the advancement of ‘common law’ in the USA. Without a degree in law, Benjamin became the second Jew to work in the country’s highest court and became a Supreme Court judge. He had dropped out from the school of law and went to join his father's firm. Benjamin later got admitted to the bar where he received an outstanding status. Later on, he was admitted to the New York bar and became a highly flourishing courtroom lawyer despite his soft, reserved personality. In 1913, the state highest Court selected Benjamin as a transformation contender.

Remarkably, he earned his promotion to the highest court in New York a few weeks after his arrival to the Court of Appeal. Additionally, he worked at the supreme courts up to 1932. During his time on the court, he was the chief justice in 1927. He later came to be selected as the Associate Justice of Supreme Court. During his term in the Supreme Court, Benjamin made outstanding judgments which placed him in the pantheon of reputed judges.

Benjamin Cardozo was known for his kind, sociable behavior, therefore, his workmates loved him. However, he remained single all his life. Being a jurist and a devoted Jew, he brought a lot of admiration to the United States and his people. His texts and judgments added significantly towards the evolution of American ‘common law’.

Early Life

Benjamin Cardozo was born on May 24, 1870, in New York City. His father Albert Jacob Cardozo was a judge in the Supreme Court of New York, and his mother was Rebecca Washington Nathan. His forerunners from both sides were Sephardi Jews from the Portuguese Jewish community. In 1868, his dad committed a judicial dishonesty indignity, and so he had to quit the bench and faced possible prosecution. Even after being out of court, his father continued to practice law for some more time up until his death in 1885.

Benjamin Cardozo had six siblings. He has two older sisters named Nell and a twin sister called Emily and other twins. His mother passed away in 1879. Hence, the twins were brought up by Nell, his sister who was 11 years older than them. He had private classes from writer Horatio Alger. His tutor was an original author of the 19th century when Benjamin was still young. He joined the Columbia University at the age of 15 and in 1889, he graduated. Then he entered the Columbia Law School for a law program for two years.

Amidst his studies, though, the school lengthened the program for one more year. He refused to wait for an additional year, and he thus decided to leave law school with no degree. In 1891, however, he was approved at the bar and therefore together with his older brother, he started practicing appellate law.


Early Career beginnings

Benjamin Cardozo was elected to the Supreme Court in New York on a 14-year term to the New York in November 1913 where he served as a momentary judge at the court of appeal in New York. Under the alterations of 1899, he served at the New York Court of Appeals, In February 1914. Apparently, he became the 1st Jew to work at the courts of appeal.

Eventually, in January 1917, Benjamin settled for a regular seat on the Court of Appeal. In November the same year, he was chosen on the Democratic and Republican tickets for a 14-year term in the Court of Appeal. Later in 1926, he got selected for a 14-year term as head Judge in the Court of Appeal, and he took office on 1st January 1927. He worked as the principal judge for five years, and he quit in March 1932. He then received a selection to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Additionally, Benjamin Cardozo worked as the Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Remarkably, he worked on the bench for six years, taking President Franklin D. Roosevelt's side on his new contract projects, which included public protection programs and also serving to figure the path of criminal law. Apart from being a judge, Benjamin also took part in co-founding the ‘American Law Institute,' and offered his counsel on the board of the ‘American Jewish Committee.' He was also an author with prominent works based on his philosophies on the law, including the publications ‘The Nature of the Judicial Process’ in 1921 and ‘Law and Literature’ in 1931.


Major Works

During Benjamin’s time serving in the Court of Appeal, he was lauded for the caliber of its jurisprudence. In 1916, Benjamin Cardozo was a central figure in the vehicle case belonging to Macpherson v. Buick Motor Co.; the ruling of the trial gave out a groundbreaking decision on issues concerning individual clients and legal product responsibility. Benjamin’s decision in Palsgraf v. Long Island Railroad Co. of 1928 assisted in redefining the idea of carelessness in the American tort law.

He always gave out opinions that emphasized the importance of strictly adhering to the Tenth Amendment during his years as an Associate Justice. He majorly wrote the judgment for Helvering v. Davis, 301 U.S. 619, and among other public safety cases in 1937. He made this decision to preserve the federal public protection program basing his argument on the broad interest stipulation of the United States Constitution in Article I, section 8.


Personal Life and Legacy

Benjamin Cardozo of his own free will chose to remain single, and he lived a celibate life. One of the possible explanations for his decision was because he had a lasting dedication to his older sister Nell. They both lived in New York up until she died in 1929. On July 9, 1938, in Port Chester, New York Benjamin passed away at the age of 68 and his body buried in Beth Olam Cemetery in Queens, New York.

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