Justice Benjamin Nathan Cardozo

Justice Benjamin Nathan Cardozo joined the U.S. Supreme Court on March 14, 1932, replacing Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. Cardozo was born on May 24, 1870 in New York City. He enrolled in Columbia University at the age of 15 and graduated in 1889. Cardozo then returned to Columbia for law school but left after two years. He was soon admitted to the New York bar and spent the next two decades in private practice.

In 1913, Cardozo was elected to the New York Supreme Court, a state-level trial court. He joined the court in the following January and was soon designated to a temporary position on the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court in the state. In 1917, Governor Charles Whitman appointed Cardozo to a regular seat on the Court of Appeals. He was elected to that seat later that year, and he was elected in 1926 to serve as Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals. Some of his opinions on the Court of Appeals contributed significantly to the development of contract and tort law.

President Herbert Hoover nominated Cardozo to the U.S. Supreme Court on February 15, 1932. The Senate confirmed him on February 24, and he took the judicial oath in the following month. He would spend the last six years of his life on the Court.

Cardozo’s tenure coincided with the Great Depression and the New Deal. He became part of a liberal bloc of Justices known as the "Three Musketeers," joining Justices Louis Brandeis and Harlan Fiske Stone. Opposing a conservative bloc of Justices called the "Four Horsemen," they typically supported the legislation enacted under the administration of President Franklin Roosevelt. Cardozo often found himself in the minority in cases reviewing economic regulations, but he lived long enough to see his view prevail in the late 1930s.

Cardozo died on July 9, 1938 in Port Chester, New York and was buried in New York City. Justice Felix Frankfurter replaced him on the Court.

Selected Opinions by Justice Cardozo:

Steward Machine Co. v. Davis (1937)

Topic: Powers of Congress

If a power akin to undue influence may be exerted by the national government on the states, the location of the point at which pressure turns into compulsion and ceases to be inducement would be a question of degree.

Welch v. Helvering (1933)

Topic: Taxes

Payments on the debts of a corporation, made by its former officer after its discharge in bankruptcy and for the purpose of strengthening their own business standing and credit, were not ordinary and necessary expenses of their business for tax purposes.