Chief Judge Stanley H. Fuld Tribute to Chief Judge Stanley H. Fuld

Michael I. Sovern, Columbia Law School


There were Whiz Kids before McNamara, and never more than during the tenure of the late Thomas E. Dewey as District Attorney of New York County. Only thirty-three years old when he became special prosecutor for the investigation of organized crime in New York and thirty-five when he took office as District Attorney in 1937, Dewey surrounded himself with a remarkably talanted group of young lawyers. Frank Hogan, for example, was thirty-five in 1937, Charles Breitel all of twenty-eight. Stanley Howells Fuld, who had graduated from the Columbia Law School one year after the District Attorney, was thirty-four. Nine years later, in April of 1946, Dewey, then Governor, again exhibited his uncanny gifts as a legal talent scout by appointing Stanley Fuld to fill an unexpired term on the Court of Appeals of New York. The following year, Judge Fuld was elected to the first of his 14-year terms on the Court; he was re-elected in 1961. He has been Chief Judge of the State of New York and of the Court of Appeals since 1967. The comparison with Cardozo is inevitable. Cardozo, too, was in his early forties when first appointed to the Court of Appeals and served on that court for a long time, nineteen years to Fuld's (to date) twenty-five. Each of them worked during a formative period in which inherited legal doctrines had to be recast for contemporary needs, and each of them has influenced the path of the law in many and lasting ways. Thus, to cite but one example of many that might be chosen, Fuld's opinion for the court in the products liability case of Randy Knitwear v. American Cyanamid Co.1 embodies the same judicial pragmatism as Cardozo's opinion for the court in the landmark case of MacPherson v. Buick2 and may in time prove to be as influential. The several thoughtful articles in this issue of the Review furnish ample evidence of Chief Judge Fuld's analytical power and decisional influence in a wide range of substantive and procedural fields. It is particularly impres- sive, as proof of his impartiality and rare detachment, that this former as- sistant district attorney and longtime head of that office's criminal appeals division, was known throughout the country, even before the Warren Court's massive intervention in the area of criminal procedure, as a searching and compassionate judicial guardian of the rights of accused persons. Chief Judge Fuld is quick, too quick many of us think, to disclaim the comparison with his great predecessor, Cardozo, just as Cardozo was quick to dismiss com- parisons of himself with Holmes.