Cardozo, Benjamin N.

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Benjamin Nathan Cardozo (May 24, 1870–July 9, 1938) served as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1932 until 1938. Cardozo was born in New York City and earned his law degree at Columbia University. He was admitted to the New York bar in 1891 and gained a reputation for his scholarly approach to law and his belief that the law should be adapted to modern conditions. Cardozo was appointed to the New York Court of Appeals in 1914 and was elevated to its chief judgeship in 1926. He served on this state court until President Herbert Hoover appointed him to replace retiring Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., in 1932.

Like Holmes and Louis Brandeis, Cardozo was a legal realist and a pre-New Deal progressive who believed that the Constitution, especially as it affected state governments, should be flexible, and that states should have broad discretion to make laws to solve or alleviate social and economic problems resulting from industrialization and urbanization, such as child labor, unsafe working conditions, and abusive business practices. In such cases as MacPherson v. Buick (1916) and Ultramares Corporation v. Touche (1931), Cardozo wrote decisions for New York that respectively expanded the legal responsibilities of businesses in product liability and fraud cases. A series of lectures that Cardozo gave at Yale Law School reflected these ideas and opinions and was published as a book, The Nature of the Judicial Process, in 1921.

Cardozo, like other pre-New Deal progressives, was more willing to grant the states, rather than the federal government, broader powers to enact labor, social welfare, and regulatory reforms. Since the early New Deal emphasized economic planning and the regulation of prices, wages, and production through codes made and enforced by the executive branch, Cardozo joined the majority of the Supreme Court in striking down the National Industrial Recovery Act in the Schechter decision of 1935. Cardozo dissented, however, in the Supreme Court's anti-New Deal decisions in the Butler and Carter cases of 1936. In Butler, he and Brandeis joined Harlan Stone's dissenting opinion. Harlan claimed that the Agricultural Adjustment Act should be upheld since because Congress had the constitutional authority to regulate agricultural production through excise taxes. In Carter, Cardozo wrote a dissenting opinion arguing that the Guffey Coal Act should be upheld since the commerce clause gave Congress the authority to regulate the prices, wages, and trade practices of the interstate coal industry.

By 1937, he belonged to the pro-New Deal majority on the court. After Cardozo's death in 1938, he was replaced on the Supreme Court by Felix Frankfurter.



Cardozo, Benjamin N. The Nature of the Judicial Process. 1921.

Kaufman, Andrew L. Cardozo. 1998.

Polenberg, Richard. The World of Benjamin Cardozo: Personal Values and the Judicial Process. 1997.

Sean J. Savage

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Cardozo, Benjamin N.

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