The Supreme Court

Benjamin Cardozo (1932-1938)

Benjamin Cardozo's family history dates back to the Revolutionary War in which his ancestors fought against the British. His father was a New York Supreme Court justice but was forced to resign in 1872 under threat of impeachment.

Benjamin Cardozo received his law degree from Columbia Law School and was admitted to the bar in 1891. After proving his success as a courtroom lawyer, Cardozo was elected to the New York Supreme Court in 1913. He served as associate judge and chief judge on the New York Court of Appeals for 18 years, writing over 500 opinions for the court.

Just the Facts

William Borah, who at the time was one of the most powerful Senate Committee chairmen, strongly supported Cardozo's nomination. He helped to convince President Hoover to make the nomination, according to Henry Abraham in his book, Justices, Presidents, and Senators. Abraham says when Hoover showed Borah the list of possible candidates to replace Oliver Wendell Holmes, Cardozo was on the bottom of the list with the notation “Jew, Democrat, New York.” Borah told him he was handed the list upside down and convinced Hoover to appoint Cardozo, according to Abraham.

His reputation grew nationwide and there was widespread support for this nomination to the Supreme Court. Support for his nomination came from all sides: labor, business, liberals, and conservatives. Taft refused to nominate Cardozo while he was president in the 1920s because he viewed him as too liberal. Herbert Hoover reluctantly nominated him in 1932 because by that time the groundswell of support was too large to fight off.

Even though he was Jewish, he met with none of the anti-Semitism that Brandeis experienced. His nomination sailed through the Senate unanimously without debate ten seconds after it was taken up on the floor of the Senate. Once on the court, Cardozo aligned with Brandeis and another leading liberal, Harlan Stone.

Palko v. Connecticut

One of the key cases for which Cardozo wrote the Court's opinion was Palko v. Connecticut in 1937. Frank Palko faced a charge of first-degree murder, but was convicted instead of second-degree murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. The state of Connecticut appealed the decision because of errors made at trial and won a new trial for Palko. The appeal was passed on errors by the trial judge because he excluded the defendant's confession, excluded certain testimony that would have impeached the defendant's credibility, and instructed the jury incorrectly regarding the difference between first and second degree murder.

Palko was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death after the second trial. Palko's attorneys appealed the second trial to the Supreme Court on the belief that the second conviction violated the protection against double jeopardy guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment to the constitution. They believed this protection applied to state cases because of the Fourteenth Amendment's due process clause.

The Supreme Court upheld Palko's second conviction and the majority opinion was written by Cardozo. In his opinion, Cardozo wrote:

Before he died in 1938, Cardozo wrote over 100 opinions during his short six-year period on the Court.

book cover

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to The Supreme Court © 2004 by Lita Epstein, J.D.. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

highlights

Special Books for the Kids You Love
Celebrate 20 years of sharing love to the moon and back with the anniversary edition of Guess How Much I Love You, one of the world’s best-loved picture books. Plus, search our Book Finder for more great book picks. Brought to you by Candlewick Press.

Vote Now for the Children's & Teen Choice Book Awards
Voting is open now through May 3 for the Children's and Teen Choice Book Awards — the only national book awards program where the winning author, illustrator, and books of the year are selected by young readers. Encourage your child to vote for his favorites today!

Top 10 Math & Science Apps for Your Whiz Kid
Looking for the best math and science apps for kids? Check out these cool apps for all ages, which will grow your child's love of the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math).

Registered for Kindergarten — Now What?
Wondering what to do now that you've signed your child up for kindergarten? Try our award-winning Kindergarten Readiness app! This easy-to-use checklist comes with games and activities to help your child build essential skills for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Facebook icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks