Arthur Joseph Goldberg

views updated May 23 2018

Arthur Joseph Goldberg

Arthur Joseph Goldberg (1908-1990), a leading American lawyer and public official, was U.S. secretary of labor, ambassador to the United Nations, and activist Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Arthur J. Goldberg was born on August 8, 1908, the youngest of 11 children whose immigrant parents were Russian Jews. He worked as a delivery boy for a shoe factory while acquiring an education in the Chicago public schools. Goldberg at times labored with construction gangs as he attended first Crane Junior College of the City College of Chicago, then Northwestern University, from which he received a B.S.L. degree in 1929.

Following graduation Goldberg was admitted to the Illinois bar and worked as an associate lawyer in a Chicago law firm. Law practice provided an income which enabled him to earn a law degree from Northwestern University in 1930. Shortly thereafter—on July 18, 1931—the young lawyer married Dorothy Kurgans; in the years to come two children, Barbara and Robert Michael, were born and raised. Until the United States entered World War II in 1941 Goldberg enjoyed a growing reputation in Chicago, particularly in the field of labor law after he represented the Newspaper Guild in a bitter strike in 1938.

Labor's Advocate

During World War II Goldberg established a distinguished record in the Office of Strategic Services as chief of the Labor Division in Europe. After victory in 1945 he returned to the practice of labor law, which was a growing field during the post-war years. As chief counsel for the United Steelworkers of America Goldberg achieved national stature as a champion of organized labor. Building on this experience he overcame enormous obstacles to bring about the merger of the American Federation of Labor (A.F. of L.) and the Congress of Industrial Organizations (C.I.O.). This and other victories revealed the accuracy of one observer's assessment that Goldberg "proved to be an exceptionally able practitioner of the art of negotiating the terms of collective agreements at both the bargaining table and, on occasion, in the White House."

The leading role in the AFL-CIO merger brought Goldberg national preeminence. By 1958 he became a confidant of Sen. John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts, who had proposed significant labor reforms. During the senator's successful campaign for the presidency in 1960 Goldberg was one of Kennedy's closest advisers. It came as no surprise, then, that the new president appointed Goldberg as secretary of labor in 1961. Although he served for less than two years, he was extraordinarily effective in a wide range issues. Besides continued success as a labor negotiator, particularly with respect to strikes, Goldberg fought unemployment and worked for an increased minimum wage and for the elimination of racial discrimination in employment. He also initiated both a pilot program to train and place youths in jobs and the White House Conference on National Economic Issues and shaped the policies of the President's Advisory Committee on Labor-Management Relations. The motive behind all these efforts was the attainment of peace and the preservation of the public interest. What Secretary Goldberg said of the labor-mediating role was true for other areas as well: The secretary, as a mediator, "inevitably is driven to seeking peace…. He can hope that the settlement will prove fair and equitable to the public as well as to the involved parties, but this can be no more than hope, since sanctions are lacking and strong-willed parties are involved."

Became Supreme Court Justice

In 1962, after more than 20 years of exemplary service, Justice Felix Frankfurter resigned his seat on the U.S. Supreme Court. Kennedy nominated Goldberg to fill this vacancy. Following Senate confirmation he exchanged the politically-charged environment of cabinet office for the more austere, but no less high-pressured, chambers of the nation's highest court. Although Goldberg served at this post for just three terms, from 1962 to 1965, he nonetheless left an indelible imprint on American constitutional law. He took his seat during a tumultuous era in which the Court pursued a course of almost unprecedented judicial activism. Goldberg joined a group of liberal Justices, led by Chief Justice Earl Warren and including William O. Douglas, Hugo L. Black, and William J. Brennan, Jr., who believed that the Court possessed a constitutional duty to actively pursue a course of social and legal change. In case after case the new Justice helped make a majority whose decision rested not upon precedents alone, but, as he said, on those principles so rooted in the "traditions and conscience" of the American people that they "ranked as fundamental." Several of the most significant areas in which the Warren Court adhered to an activist policy included racial desegregation, voting rights, the rights of criminal defendants, and freedom of expression.

A basic feature of the Warren Court's activism was an expansive reading of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which applied federal guarantees of equal protection of the law and due process to the states. The substance and scope of these guarantees was, however, uncertain. Goldberg and the other liberal Justices were often criticized for reading their own opinions as to what was fair or right into the meaning of these vague provisions. Yet they often did so in order to protect the rights of the dispossessed and unfortunate, and, as in the case of African Americans, those of persecuted minorities in general. At the same time, the liberals took controversial positions in decisions because they believed that in shielding the rights of the poor and weak, they were defending the individual rights of all Americans.

Perhaps no case illustrates Goldberg's and the Warren Court's judicial activism better than Escobedo v. Illinois (1964). In 1963 the Court decided that through the due process clause of the 14th Amendment the Sixth Amendment's guarantee of the right to counsel applied in all cases involving poor defendants in state courts. But this decision did not state how early in the criminal justice process the right to counsel existed. Did the right extend beyond the trial to the point of arrest, accusation, and interrogation? This question raised the issue of whether the right to counsel could be combined with the Fifth Amendment's guarantee against self incrimination. In the Escobedo case the police questioned the defendant, Danny Escobedo, in connection with the murder of his brother-in-law. Escobedo had not been indicted, and during this interrogation he repeatedly asked to talk with his lawyer, who at one point he saw in a nearby room. Yet the police rejected each request; eventually, he made an incriminating statement that the state used to convict him during the trial. On appeal, Escobedo claimed that the prejudicial statement should not have been allowed because he was denied the assistance of counsel. In the Supreme Court the State of Illinois argued that the state should not be required to provide counsel until the preliminary stages of the trial. Justice Goldberg, writing for the Court, rejected this contention, stressing that it would make the trial essentially an appeal from an unrestrained interrogation, rendering the protection of the Fifth and Sixth amendments "a very hollow thing."

Escobedo opened the way to other far-reaching and controversial decisions which enlarged the rights of those investigated for suspicion of or charged with crimes. To those cases, however, Justice Goldberg would not contribute.

Continued Public Service

In 1965 Goldberg resigned from the Court to become the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. President Lyndon B. Johnson, embroiled in an increasingly complex and tragic war in Vietnam, had asked Goldberg to accept the U.N. post, hoping that he might through his effective negotiating skills help achieve a just peace. Goldberg left the Court with reluctance. "I shall not, Mr. President, conceal the pain with which I leave the Court after three years of service," he wrote. "It has been the richest and most satisfying period of my career." Nevertheless, Goldberg, as he had throughout a lifetime of public service, approached the new responsibilities with resolution and enthusiasm. But although he achieved several significant accomplishments, particularly during the Arab-Israeli War of June 1967, the central goal of peace in Vietnam eluded him. Early in the summer of 1968 the former labor lawyer, U.S. secretary of labor, and Justice of the Supreme Court resigned the ambassadorship and returned to legal practice as a partner in a well-known New York law firm. In 1970 he was an unsuccessful candidate for governor of New York. After that, though no longer in public office, Goldberg maintained involvement in public affairs. He held faculty positions at Columbia, American University, Hastings College of Law, and the University of Alabama School of Law and remained an influential expert on labor law. Goldberg died on January 20, 1990.

Further Reading

There is a good survey of Arthur J. Goldberg's career, particularly as a Supreme Court Justice, in Leon Friedman and Fred L. Israel, editors, volume IV, The Justices of the United States Supreme Court, 1789-1969: Their Lives and Major Opinions (1969). His major opinions and speeches are collected in D. P. Moynihan, editor, Defenses of Freedom (1956). His book AFL-CIO: Labor United (1956) and essay "Law and the United Nations," 52 American Bar Association Journal 813 (1966) provide valuable insights into the man, his ideas, and his times. Good studies including a discussion of the Warren Court and Goldberg's contribution as an activist Justice are Henry Julian Abraham, Freedom and the Court: Civil Rights and Liberties in the United States (1967) and John Paul Frank, The Warren Court (1964). □

Goldberg, Arthur Joseph

views updated May 29 2018


Arthur Joseph Goldberg served as a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1962 to 1965. A distinguished labor law attorney, Goldberg also served as secretary of labor in the administration of President john f. kennedy from 1961 until his judicial appointment and as ambassador to the united nations from 1965 to 1968 during the administration of President lyndon b. johnson. Johnson persuaded a reluctant Goldberg to resign from the Supreme Court to accept the U.N. assignment.

Goldberg was born August 8, 1908, in Chicago, to Russian immigrants. He graduated from Northwestern University Law School in 1929 and entered the field of labor law in Chicago. Goldberg gained national attention in 1939 as counsel to the Chicago Newspaper Guild during a strike. He served in the Office of Strategic Services during world war ii and then returned to his labor practice in 1944.

In 1948 he became general counsel for the United Steelworkers of America, a position he held until 1961. The steelworkers union was an important union during a time when U.S. heavy industry was thriving. Strikes or the threat of strikes in the steel industry had national repercussions. Goldberg proved adept in his role as general counsel, skillfully negotiating strike settlements, consolidating gains through collective bargaining, and helping with public relations.

From 1948 to 1955, Goldberg also was general counsel for the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), which contained most nontrade unions, such as those controlling manufacturing and mining jobs. The CIO had been created when the trade union members of the american federation of labor (AFL) showed no interest in organizing these industries. There was a great deal of friction between the CIO and the AFL, yet the leadership of both organizations realized that a unified labor movement was a necessity. Goldberg was a principal architect of the 1955 merger of the CIO and AFL into the AFL-CIO. He then served as a special counsel to the AFL-CIO's industrial union department from 1955 to 1961.

In 1961 President Kennedy appointed Goldberg secretary of labor. During the less than two years that Goldberg held this office, he saw congressional approval of an increase in the minimum wage, and the reorganization of the Office of Manpower Administration (now the Employment and Training Administration). When Justice felix frankfurter retired from the Supreme Court in 1962, Kennedy appointed Goldberg to the "Jewish seat." The so-called Jewish seat began with the 1939 appointment of Felix Frankfurter, who was Jewish, to succeed Justice benjamin cardozo, also Jewish. It was assumed that for political reasons, Democratic presidents would appoint a Jewish person to that vacancy. This tradition ended with the appointment of abe fortas.

"Law not served by power is an illusion; but power not ruled by law is a menace which our nuclear age cannot afford."
Arthur Goldberg

The appointment of the liberal Goldberg, replacing the conservative Frankfurter, turned a four-justice liberal minority on the Court into a five-justice liberal majority, which was led by Chief Justice earl warren. Goldberg became known as an innovative judicial thinker who moved the Court toward liberal activism. He usually joined the majority of warren court justices in extending the Court's rulings into areas previously considered the realm of the states and of Congress. He was also an able negotiator within the Court, helping to smooth the way in reaching difficult and controversial decisions.

Goldberg was a firm supporter of civil rights and civil liberties. His best-known opinion came in the areas of criminal law and criminal procedure, when he wrote the majority opinion in escobedo v. illinois, 378 U.S. 478, 84 S. Ct. 1758, 12 L. Ed. 2d 977 (1964). In this case the Court struck down a murder conviction because the defendant had been denied the right to confer with his lawyer after his arrest. This decision was a major step toward the landmark decision in miranda v. arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694 (1966), which gave suspects the right to be advised of their constitutional rights to remain silent, to have a lawyer appointed, and to have a lawyer present during interrogation.

Goldberg believed in the constitutional right of due process. In a dissenting opinion in United States v. Barnett, 376 U.S. 681, 84 S. Ct. 984, 12 L. Ed. 2d 23 (1964), he argued that federal judges should not be allowed to use their contempt power to send persons to jail. When punishment for contempt of court could be meted out, the person held in contempt should be entitled to a jury trial. Although he did not prevail in Barnett, his dissent drew attention to the abuses of this practice and helped reduce it.

In 1965 Goldberg appeared to have a promising judicial career. Yet he became one of the

few justices to give up his lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court for a reason other than retirement. In the summer of 1965, President Johnson asked Goldberg to resign from the Court and accept the U.S. ambassadorship to the United Nations, promising a larger role in foreign policy than was traditionally given to the U.N. delegate. Goldberg did so reluctantly and regretfully. When Johnson appointed his friend and political confidant Abe Fortas to replace Goldberg, many believed this had been the primary motive in offering Goldberg the U.N. post.

Goldberg's major achievement as U.N. ambassador was his aid in drafting Security

Council Resolution No. 242 (22 SCOR 8–9, U.N. Doc. S/INF/Rev. 2), passed in November 1967, concerning peace measures in the Middle East. Goldberg tried continually and unsuccessfully to make the United Nations play a role in a peace process that would end the vietnam war.His efforts were met with disfavor by Johnson and by Johnson's advisers. Frustrated and disappointed by the failure of these efforts and the escalation of the war, Goldberg resigned his U.N. position in 1968.

After his resignation Goldberg joined a New York City law firm and also served in 1968 and 1969 as president of the American Jewish Committee, a national human rights organization. He ran for governor of New York in 1970 as the Liberal-Democrat candidate, but incumbent Nelson A. Rockefeller soundly defeated him. He then returned to Washington, D.C., where he resumed a private law practice.

In 1977 and 1978, Goldberg was a U.S. ambassador-at-large in the administration of President jimmy carter. Following this assignment, he became deeply involved in the international human rights movement, a cause he pursued until his death.

Goldberg wrote several books, including AFL-CIO Labor United (1956), Defense of Freedom (1966), and Equal Justice: The Warren Era of the Supreme Court (1972).

Goldberg died January 19, 1990, in Washington, D.C.

further readings

Stebenne, David L. 1996. Arthur J. Goldberg: New Deal Liberal. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

Goldberg, Arthur Joseph

views updated May 08 2018


GOLDBERG, ARTHUR JOSEPH (1908–1990), U.S. labor lawyer, secretary of labor, Supreme Court justice, and ambassador to the United Nations. Goldberg, who was born in Chicago, was the youngest of 11 children. After graduating from Northwestern University Law School (1929) at the head of his class, Goldberg began practicing law in Chicago. He soon developed a national reputation in labor law, a field then rapidly expanding in the wake of the intensive labor strife and legislation of the depression years and Roosevelt's New Deal. During World War ii, he was appointed head of the labor division of the U.S. Office of Strategic Services (oss), for which he helped to establish intricate clandestine operations with anti-Fascist trade union leaders behind Nazi lines. In 1948 Goldberg was appointed general counsel of the Congress of Industrial Organizations (cio). In this capacity he played a crucial role in the prolonged negotiations between the cio and its warring rival the afl (American Federation of Labor) and was instrumental in drafting the merger agreement between them in 1955, after which he returned to private practice. His book afl-cio: Labor United was published the following year.

An early supporter of the presidential aspirations of John F. Kennedy, Goldberg was appointed to the cabinet as secretary of labor upon Kennedy's inauguration in 1961. Unlike his immediate predecessor, Goldberg took an activist view of the office. He vigorously strove to raise the national minimum wage and to increase federal unemployment benefits, while at the same time seeking to arbitrate a wide range of labor-management conflicts in order to implement Kennedy's anti-inflationary program by discouraging excessive wage hikes. His activities in this area alienated many of his old labor colleagues, causing the magazine New Republic to summarize his two years as labor secretary by remarking, "His contribution to the Kennedy administration has been notable for his forthright disregard of old ties with organized labor in shaping a new doctrine of the national interest in labor-management disputes."

In 1962 Goldberg was chosen by President Kennedy to replace the retiring Felix Frankfurter as a justice on the United States Supreme Court. During his term on the Court, Goldberg consistently voted with its liberal majority and wrote several key decisions protecting the rights of naturalized American citizens. The most significant decision written by him, however, was in the famous Escobedo Case of 1964, in which the Court ruled by a 5–4 majority that every accused prisoner had the constitutional right to be advised by a lawyer during police interrogation, thereby working a revolution in American criminal law.

In 1965 Goldberg resigned from the Court to become United States permanent representative to the United Nations. The high point of his un career came during the Arab-Israel war of 1967, when throughout the six days of fighting he repeatedly and successfully argued the American position calling for a cease-fire without previous Israel withdrawal. He thereby earned the enmity of the Arab nations, who accused him of influencing American foreign policy on behalf of Jewish interests. Goldberg was also said to have had a major hand in the drafting of the November 1967 Security Council resolution which served as a basis for the Jarring Mission to the Middle East. In 1968 he resigned from his position, reportedly dissatisfied with President Johnson's "hawkish" policies in Vietnam and his own inability to moderate them. Leaving Washington, he settled in New York City, where he opened a law practice while taking an active behind-the-scenes role in local and statewide Democratic Party politics. In 1970 he ran unsuccessfully for the office of governor of New York State. Goldberg, who was active in Zionist and Jewish affairs, was president of the American Jewish Committee (1968–69) and chairman of the Jewish Theological Seminary's board of overseers (1963–69). In July 1978 Goldberg was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Carter for his efforts in the "Middle East and for human rights."


J.P. Frank, The Warren Court (1964), 165–85; D.P. Moynihan (ed.), The Defenses of Freedom: The Public Papers of Arthur J. Goldberg (1966).

[Arnold Beichman]