Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sotomayor the First Hispanic Supreme Court Justice?

[Benjamin Cardozo 1870-1938]
Benjamin Cardozo was appointed to the Supreme Court in 1932 to succeed Oliver Wendell Holmes. He wrote most of the decisions on negligence and product liability which define those areas in American law and many of those which define our contract law. The most important part of his career was his years on the New York Court of Appeals, the highest court of that state. Unlike most justices, who are elevated to the Supreme Court, it was widely understood that the Supreme Court was elevated by having Cardozo, the foremost legal intellect of his era.

He decided among many other cases, 'Palsgraf vs. Long Island Railroad', a case which created the fundamental tort law we use today and will use for the foreseeable future. It gave rise to the phrase, "Sue the Bastards".

It seems shameful to give Hispanic gentiles credit for the accomplishments of someone whose connection to them is that they exiled his ancestors. But Sephardic Jews have for centuries made a point of pride of their Hispanic origins so there is no denying it. The analogy I suppose is German Jews being proud of being from Germany, even after the Holocaust.

There is little doubt that Benjamin Cardozo will be a pillar and icon of American law long after Sonia Sotomayor has become just one more picture on a wall, one more name on a list. The difference is between having gone to a prestigious school of law, and having a prestigious school of law named after you.

No comments:

Post a Comment