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7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674096455
ISBN-10: 0674096452
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Editorial Reviews Review

Andrew L. Kaufman has, after 40 years of work, written what will be the definitive biography of Justice Benjamin Cardozo. Cardozo was one of the premier judges of the first half of this century, serving on the New York Court of Appeals as Chief Judge, the most influential state court in the country, and then on the Supreme Court. On the New York Court of Appeals, Cardozo rewrote tort law with his stamp; his characterizations of negligence, proximate cause, and assumption of the risk still dominate law throughout the land 60 to 80 years after his original decisions.

Kaufman recounts all of this, effectively combining legal analysis with biography. Cardozo's father was a judge tarnished with scandal, and it has long been theorized that Cardozo's life was an attempt to retrieve that lost honor. He would, for example, turn down even the simplest gifts that other judges routinely accepted. Kaufman arguably overplays the honor theme when it comes to his legal analysis, most notably in his analysis of Meinhard v. Salmon, in which the judge declared that, in matters of fiduciary obligations, "[a] trustee is held to something stricter than the morals of the marketplace." Kaufman, perhaps stretching Cardozo's opinion too far to reach the desired conclusion, views this decision as "a culmination of Cardozo's efforts to implant a sense of honorable conduct into law."

The only potential downside to the book, other than the occasional desire to see Kaufman address more frequently the thoughts and analysis of other biographers and commentators on Cardozo's life and work, is that Cardozo's virtue risks becoming the biography's failing: his life was his work. He was celibately monkish in his private life, and other than the politicking behind each of his successive appointments to higher courts, Cardozo's political life was for the most part equally quiet. Fortunately, Cardozo's legal output is so varied and important that the biography's necessary focus on his judicial career is not wasted effort for the author or the reader. --Ted Frank


The much-awaited publication of Andrew L. Kaufman's Cardozo is a major event in the world of law, judicial biography and legal literature. The work has been worth the wait...The biography...puts up front the special environment that shaped Cardozo--the Sephardic heritage that set him apart although he ceased religious practice after his bar mitzvah; his father's fall, which he wiped out by his shining integrity; the fact that all his experience was rooted in New York City and that his life was centered in his home in mid-Manhattan with [his sister] Nellie...[Kaufman] has been indefatigable in discovering the details of Cardozo's life. He is resolute in his respect for the evidence. As to Cardozo himself, he is fair, firm, admiring but not adoring, determined to set down the foibles, to note the occasional misjudgments and to reveal the virtues and the accomplishments of the man...Kaufman's Cardozo is a labor of love worthy of its subject.
--John T. Noonan, Jr. (New York Times Book Review)

Andrew L. Kaufman plumbs the sources of Cardozo's enduring influence, and no one could come better prepared for that task...[Kaufman] has been researching the life of Benjamin Cardozo for more than 40 years, and Cardozo is the long-awaited result of those efforts. It is both an exhaustive biography and a thorough analysis of Cardozo's influence on American law...Cardozo will surely remain for decades the definitive biography of this pivotal figure in American law.
--Mark Miller (Wall Street Journal)

This biography of one of the most distinguished judges in the history of American law details not only his brilliant legal career but also his lonely, almost tragic personal life...The author reviews scores of fascinating cases, such as that of Roe v. Wade, where Cardozo's opinions made legal history or influenced later decisions. His few criminal cases read like detective stories, with almost talmudic twists and turns of logic and unearthed facts...The author adds generous notes, and a case index as well as a general one. Seven photos add a personal touch to this comprehensive, valuable book on one of America's greats.
--Jennie Tarabulus (Jerusalem Post)

Benjamin Nathan Cardozo ranks with John Marshall, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., Louis D. Brandeis, and Learned Hand as one of America's greatest jurists. In Andrew L. Kaufman he has attracted precisely the right biographer. This monumental volume belongs alongside Gerald Gunther's outstanding 1994 life of Hand...Kaufman has given us a 'life and works' biography...Only about 100 pages are devoted to Cardozo's private life or character, while almost five times that many focus on his 23 years as a practicing lawyer and 25 years as judge. The proportion is fully justified, for the law was by far the major part of his life...One comes away from [this] masterful study persuaded that Cardozo was trying, by hard work, to fulfill God's commandments to the Jews and to all men.
--Milton R. Konvitz (The New Leader)

Andrew L. Kaufman...offers no apology for why it took him 40 years to complete his stunning intellectual biography of Cardozo. He need not. The writing is supple, contemplative and judicious; the scholarship, exhaustive, intriguing and unobtrusive...The book includes a comprehensive account of Cardozo's extended practice for 23 years as a business lawyer...a critical exposition of Cardozo's accomplishments as a common law jurist during his 18-year tenure on the Court of Appeals for the State of New York...and several touching asides about Cardozo's complex relationships with his Supreme Court colleagues during [his appointment there]...Cardozo and his intellectual biographer are worthy of each other.
--Stan Bernstein (New York Law Journal)

On any list of outstanding American jurists, Benjamin Nathan Cardozo must certainly rank near the top...Curiously, despite Cardozo's reputation, there has never been a full-length biography of the man or a systematic study of his thought. Andrew L. Kaufman has at last remedied this situation. His carefully nuanced book, based on 40 years of research and unprecedented access to Cardozo's papers, opens an illuminating window on the work of a judge and Supreme Court Justice who turns out to be something other than what a good number of his would-be disciples think...This fine book cogently reminds us of what we once had in our jurists, and have yet fully to regain.
--Daniel J. Silver (Commentary)

[A] long awaited and definitive biography...Kaufman's painstaking research as a biographer standing worth the price of the book. But more than half of the book consists of a thorough and insightful examination, organized by various areas of law, of Cardozo's judicial opinions, first in the New York Court of Appeals, and then in the United States Supreme Court. It is here that Kaufman paints a picture of Cardozo's judicial philosophy in action...By and large, the picture Kaufman paints of Cardozo's opinions is convincing.
--William Powers, Jr. (Texas Law Review)

Now, at last, Andrew Kaufman has published his biography of Cardozo, which is destined to be the classic work on the subject...During the past 40 years, [Kaufman] has reviewed every Cardozo decision, as well as available backup notes and Cardozo's correspondence, interviewed friends and relatives, and read the hundreds of secondary sources relating to the jurist. In the later stages, he continued his research on the Internet...Kaufman shows that, although Cardozo did not have Brandeis' political zeal, his cautious, common law methods gave birth to modern tort theory, formulated the delegation doctrine at the root of current administrative law, and enshrined the standards that are the basis of today's ethical codes. Brandeis was hailed as an Old Testament prophet in his later years; perhaps Cardozo is the Moses of our legal system.
--Henry S. Cohn (Federal Lawyer)

In this well-respected biography, Harvard law Professor Andrew Kaufman details the remarkable life of Benjamin Nathan Cardozo one of the most influential judges in the twentieth century. Cardozo's personal and professional lives are intertwined in this study of a most distinguished legal career. (Georgia Bar Journal)

In this monumental and magnificent biography, Kaufman has captured the essence of a great American whose entire adult life was dedicated to the law as advocate, judge, and scholar...This book is a model of fine writing and can be read with pleasure not only by the bench, the bar, and academia, but by the literate general reader as well.
--R.J. Steamer (Choice)

Kaufman has produced the definitive biography of the jurist who remains arguably one of America's greatest common law judges.
--Mark Silverstein (American Historical Review)

[Kaufman has written] a monumental biography that combines a vivid portrait of Cardozo's private life with a lucid analysis of his legal theories and opinion…The four decades of labor and love that Kaufman poured into Cardozo have produced a genuinely great book that readers will treasure for decades to come. (Washington Lawyer)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 744 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (May 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674096452
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674096455
  • Product Dimensions: 1.8 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,199,291 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 13, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This is a book for laypeople and lawyers, rare in judicial biography. It is written in a clear and lucid prose, eschewing much of the current academic jargon. The author's years of work include many interviews with people now dead (and thus unavailable!), providing invaluable insights and perspectives into Cardozo's life and judicial influence. This work will be interesting to social historians, as well, for its treatment of the Nathan and Cardozo families' experiences in an evolving America.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Arthur Leonard on August 23, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Andrew Kaufman has written an engrossing account of the life of Benjamin Cardozo, a judicial hero of the first third of the century. This book should prove especially useful for first-year law students, who read many of Cardozo's most important decisions in their contracts and torts classes. But even non-lawyers with an interest in the legal system will find it highly readable and informative.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 11, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Professor Kaufman presents his subject, first, as a man, establishing the personal background that shaped Cardozo's work as a judge. Kaufman then offers an insightful examination of the judicial work of Judge and Justice Cardozo, analyzing the development and maturation of Cardozo's thinking regarding the many legal principles which have become mainstays of American jurisprudence. The biography is well suited to lawyer and non-lawyer, and provides an extraordinary social history of the shaping of the American common law that governs our lives and liability today. This biography is a must-read primer for all soon-to-be law students, who will find in it an invaluable guide to the principles they are preparing to study. Professor Kaufman's honest analysis of the talents and faults of his subject is much to be commended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Tom Brody VINE VOICE on February 28, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
CARDOZO by Andrew L. Kaufman is 731 pages long. There are eight pages of non-glossy black and white photos, showing Benjamin Cardozo as a boy (with prominent chin) and as a young man (with an even bigger chin, like Jay Leno's chin).

Chapter 2 discloses that Benjamin Cardozo was born on May 24,1870, along with a twin sister, to Albert (father) and Rebecca (mother). The father, an attorney, had been admitted to the bar in 1849. When Benjamin was nine his mother died (page 21). The book provides us with one of Ben's childhood poems, which concerned sprits and dreams.

Chapter 4 discloses Benjamin Cardozo's early years as an attorney. He was admitted to the bar on Oct. 26, 1891 (page 54), and his first case was Frank v. Davis (1891), which concerned real estate.

The heart of the book resides in Chapters 14-16 (pages 243-312). These chapters concern tort law. We learn that Mr.Cardozo joined the New York Court of Appeals (equivalent to a state supreme court) in 1914. One by one, the author provides sketches of various important tort cases, such as Kettell v. Erie (injured passenger), Caruso v. Steamship (anthrax germs in cotton), Dougherty v. Pratt (window washter), MacPherson v. Buick (broken spokes), O'Connor v. Webber (butcher shop accident), Wagner v. International (rescuing a man who fell off a train), and of course Palsgraff v. Long Island (Italian fireworks). Law students, as well as seasoned attorneys, will savor every word of these chapters, when they are reminded of some of the origins of concepts such as standard reasonable man, assumption of risk, proximate cause, foreseeable risk, and whether a victim is a "likely" victim or an "unlikely" victim.
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