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February 24: Justice Cardozo

February 24, 2015

640px-Benjamin_CardozoJudge Benjamin Cardozo was unanimously elevated by the U.S. Senate to the U.S. Supreme Court on this date in 1932, after serving for eighteen years on the New York Supreme Court, including as chief judge. The entire faculty of the University of Chicago Law School had urged President Herbert Hoover to nominate him, along with the law school deans at Harvard, Yale, and Columbia. Justice Harlan Stone had even offered to resign from the Supreme Court to make room for Cardozo. As a justice, he joined Stone and Louis Brandeis as one of the so-called Three Musketeers who made up the liberal wing of the Court and defended key New Deal initiatives, including Social Security. Cardozo served on the Supreme Court for only six years before his death from a heart attack at 68 in 1938. His contributions to American law (from both the state and federal benches) included establishing the idea that there is a safety warranty between manufacturers and consumers; redefining criminal negligence in corporate law; rooting Social Security in the Constitution; and defining the applicability of federal laws to states. Cardozo, of Sephardic heritage, has sometimes been considered the first “Hispanic” on the Court; he was also likely a gay man, though he seemed to have lived a celibate life.

“The Constitution was framed... upon the theory that the peoples of the several states must sink or swim together, and that in the long run prosperity and salvation are in union and not division.” —Benjamin Cardozo