Konvitz, Milton Ridvas 1908-2003

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KONVITZ, Milton Ridvas 1908-2003

OBITUARY NOTICE—See index for CA sketch: Born March 12, 1908, in Safad, Palestine (now Israel); died September 5, 2003, in Monmouth, NJ. Attorney, educator, and author. Konvitz was a scholar of constitutional law and a civil rights law pioneer. His family immigrated to the United States when World War I made life too difficult in Palestine. They settled in Trenton, NJ, where Konvitz attended high school. Earning his bachelor's and law degrees from New York University in 1930, he completed a Ph.D. in philosophy at Cornell University three years later. Although he initially wanted to find a university post, his inability to do so led Konvitz to work as an attorney in Jersey City and Newark from 1933 to 1946. From 1938 to 1943 he assisted the Newark Housing Authority as general counsel, and from 1943 to 1946 he commuted to New York City to be a staff lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, where he prepared cases under future Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall. In 1946, Konvitz became a professor of industrial and labor relations at Cornell, and from 1956 until his retirement in 1973 he was a professor at the university's law school. Konvitz was a respected teacher—his course on American ideals was especially popular—whose students included Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; and he was a noted expert on the U.S. Constitution whose opinions were frequently cited in judgments passed down by the Supreme Court. His expertise on the Constitution also led to his being recruited as director of the Liberian Codification of Laws project from 1952 to 1980. At one point, Konvitz was even considered as a candidate for the Supreme Court, though he was never nominated. Konvitz, who often drew on the Torah in forming his opinions of civil rights, wrote or edited thirty books during his lifetime, including The Constitution and Civil Rights (1947), A Century of Civil Rights (1961), Judaism and the American Idea (1978), Torah and the Constitution: Essays in American Jewish Thought (1998), and Fundamental Rights: History of a Constitutional Doctrine (2001).



New York Times, September 11, 2003, p. A23. Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ), September 12, 2003, p. 35.