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The Federal Paper Chase: Judges' Papers in the Manuscript Division

U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit

The United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit is located in Manhattan, New York, at the Thurgood Marshall Courthouse and exercises jurisdiction over six districts within the states of Connecticut, New York, and Vermont. The papers of judges who presided over the court that can be found in the Manuscript Division at the Library of Congress are listed below.

Irving R. Kaufman Papers

In a 1978 article in the Yale Law Review, Judge Irving R. Kaufman argued against a proposed law in Congress that aimed to curtail judicial independence by setting up a system beyond impeachment upon which judges might be removed from office. Referencing and quoting justices and judges such as Benjamin Cardozo, Felix Frankfurter, Louis Brandeis and Frank Johnson, Kaufman vigorously defended a free-thinking judiciary. “Ideally, the modern judge should be, in the phrase describing Justice Brandeis, a master of both microscope and telescope,” he reflected. “Even in the most robust of health, the judiciary lives vulnerably. It must have ‘breathing space.’ We must shelter it against the dangers of a ‘fatal chill.'"1

Roger Higgins, photographer. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, separated by heavy wire screen as they leave U.S. Court House after being found guilty by jury. 1951. New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Kaufman’s support of judicial independence stemmed in no small part from his own experiences; he wrote the majority opinion in one of the nation’s most controversial cases, United States v. Rosenberg, the famous Cold War espionage trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, which ultimately resulted in their executions. According to his New York Times obituary, the controversial decision hounded Kaufman who many legal observers acknowledge established important jurisprudence in several other areas including civil rights, anti-trust law, and civil liberties (freedom of speech and freedom of the press).2

Appointed by President Harry S. Truman in 1949 to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Kaufman served for twelve years before President John F. Kennedy promoted him in 1961 to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. He would eventually become chief judge in 1973. He stepped down as chief judge in 1980 but continued to serve as a circuit judge until assuming senior status in 1987. In sum, Kaufman spent over four decades in the federal courts before his death in 1992.

Despite widespread acknowledgement of the influence of Kaufman’s rulings, the Irving R. Kaufman Papers include only some of his decisions. For example, the Southern District of New York series, which includes transcripts of testimony, charges to juries, opinions, sentences, and appeals, only documents fourteen trials during his tenure as a district judge but does include United States v. Rosenberg and United States v. Bonanno (the 1959 trials of alleged underworld figures who had met in Apalachin, New York). Additional material regarding the Rosenberg case can be found in the Scrapbooks and the Subject Files, both separate series in the collection and discussed briefly below.

Though several cases over which Kaufman presided such as Edwards v. the National Audubon Society (1977), Herbert v. Lando (1977), Berkey v. Kodak (1979), Reeves v. American Broadcasting Companies (1983), The Nation v. Harper & Row (1983) are considered influential and, in some cases landmark decisions in areas of the law such as anti-trust (Berkey) and freedom of the press (The Nation), they are not well represented in the Second Court of Appeals series. The two case files that appear consist largely of memoranda between judges, but other materials in the series include affirmances, dockets, and opinions.

As evidenced by his Yale Law Review article, Kaufman wrote prodigiously and cared deeply about the culture and norms of the judiciary. “We make certain that there are numerous opportunities, such as our Circuit Conferences, for informal association and discussion. This contact is cherished, for it fosters the cross-pollination of ideas that is the genius of coherent growth in the law.”3 The Office Files subseries provide evidence of this belief and consist of Kaufman’s work for American Bar Association committees, the Juvenile Justice Standards Program, professional organizations, conferences and seminars, materials concerning the operation of the courthouse and the courts of the second circuit, reference papers, and correspondence with other judges.

Though the collection lacks a dedicated correspondence series, researchers will find it in the Subject Files. In addition to correspondence, the subject files include news clippings, material about Harvard Law School and other law schools, and topics of interest to Kaufman such as drug abuse and cameras in courtrooms. His numerous speeches and writings are located in the eponymously titled series, which are arranged chronologically, and include articles, book reviews, letters to the editor, research material, and speeches. Correspondence in this series pertains to Kaufman’s exchanges with publishers, readers or event organizers.

Lastly, as already noted, the Scrapbooks series includes material related to United States v. Bonanno, United States v. Rosenberg, and the northern desegregation case of Taylor v. Board of Education. Kaufman employed a clipping service; therefore, many of the items in the final series are comprised of a diverse set of sources.

  1. Irving R. Kaufman, "Chilling Judicial Independence," Yale Law Review, Vol. 88 No. 4 (March 1979): 681-716. Back to text
  2. Marilyn Berger, "Judge Irving Kaufman of Rosenberg Spy Trial, and Free Press Rulings, Dies at 81," New York Times, February 3, 1981. Back to text
  3. Kaufman, "Chilling Judicial Independence," 681-716. Back to text

The following collection title links to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. A link to the collection finding aid is included when available.

Thurgood Marshall Papers

Better known for his work for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as a trial lawyer and appellate advocate and his tenure on the Supreme Court, Thurgood Marshall also served briefly as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Appointed in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, Marshall participated as a member of that court from 1961 to 1965 before President Lyndon B. Johnson selected him for Solicitor General in 1966. Marshall’s time on the Second Circuit complements the papers of fellow New York jurists, Robert Porter Patterson and Irving R. Kaufman whose papers are also held in the Manuscript Division. While most researchers consult the Thurgood Marshall Papers for his service on the Supreme Court, the United States Court of Appeals as well as the United States Solicitor General series contain substantial material related to Marshall’s professional history and his views on the law.

The United States Court of Appeals File, 1957-1965, documents Marshall's four years of service as an appellate judge on the Second Circuit. Papers in this series are divided into three subseries: General Correspondence, Administrative File, and Miscellany. The Library received no material concerning Marshall's nomination to the appeals court. The General Correspondence subseries, 1961-1965, includes incoming and outgoing letters between Marshall and judges, lawyers, court staff, law professors, government officials, friends, and the general public. The letters pertain primarily to Second Circuit administrative business and other professional matters.

Marion S. Trikosko, photographer. Thurgood Marshall sworn in as Solicitor General Peace Corps Bill Signing. August 25, 1965. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The Administrative File subseries, 1961-1965, includes correspondence, memoranda, opinions, orders, case files, notes, minutes of meetings, background information, and printed matter. Papers are arranged chronologically by court term, September through June, and therein alphabetically by type of material, with the exception of files from the 1962 term which began in October. There is some overlap of files between the terms since the court's work at times continued as late as August and with court business from that term carried over to the succeeding term. The majority of these files document Marshall's duties as a judge, although there are papers pertaining to his professional activities and interests in the judicial conference and judicial council of the Second Circuit. The "General" folders in each term contain a list of the cases heard by the Second Circuit court and a summary of the disposition of the cases. The appeals and motions memoranda provide a substantive record of the day-to-day work of the court. Papers relating to cases are scattered throughout the Administrative File with only a few cases having separate case files.

The Miscellany subseries, 1957-1965, consists chiefly of correspondence, memoranda, writings, and other material relating to Marshall's personal activities and interest in various organizations during his tenure on the court of appeals. The miscellaneous papers also contain correspondence, writings, and legal material pertaining to various civil rights issues.

The following collection title links to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. A link to the collection finding aid is included when available.

Robert Porter Patterson Papers

In 1939, Judge Robert Porter Patterson’s appointment to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit was greeted enthusiastically, at least according to the New York Herald Tribune. “Judge Patterson is one of the most popular jurists in the building, and has been recognized as one of the most learned judges on [the United States District Court, Southern District of New York.]"4

Appointed to the District Court in 1930, Patterson served nine years presiding over cases involving mass transit, bankruptcy, copyright, municipal finances, and business law before his promotion in 1939 to the Court of Appeals. Assuming the bench during the emergence of the New Deal, he also decided cases related to the administration of its various agencies and laws. In 1935, he denied a challenge by eight corporations to the controversial Agriculture Adjustment Act. The Supreme Court later overturned his decision.

His service on the appeals court proved short lived. In 1940, Franklin D. Roosevelt tapped him for the position of assistant secretary of war, ending his career as a judge, but not in the field of law, as the second half of his career after World War II dealt heavily with international politics, treaties, and law.

Though his life would be cut short by a tragic plane crash in 1955, the Robert Porter Patterson Papers span the period from 1909 to 1956 with much of the material concentrated on the years from 1930 to 1952.

Robert Porter Patterson, three-quarter length portrait, standing, facing front, with Henry Ford (left) and unidentified man (right). Between 1940 and 1950. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Researchers interested in the prosecution of war and national security will be drawn to Patterson’s service in the War Department, first as assistant secretary of war, then as undersecretary of war until assuming the head position of secretary of war in 1945. Two years later he stepped down from that position to assume leadership of the Association of the Bar of New York as its president. Researchers interested in these aspects of Patterson’s career and the issues related to it should consult the following series: Speech File, Scrapbooks, Miscellany, and Under Secretary of War Files. Subjects covered in the correspondence, memoranda, and reports for the period include civilian versus military control of the wartime economy, military strategy, projected problems of the postwar world, and the difficulties involved in regulating and controlling a wartime economy. Patterson’s file on wartime cabinet meetings, which he attended as a representative of the War Department, is particularly notable.

Urban historians and legal scholars will find issues related to both in the Legal File series which documents his nine years on the United States District Court of the Southern District of New York (1930-1939) and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (1939-1940). The series contains briefs and memoranda on cases in which Patterson presided as a judge, correspondence concerning the cases, and notes taken or collected by him. Known for exacting levels of research and preparation, the series provides insight into his views on a variety of legal issues and subjects through his notes and law school notebooks from his time at Harvard Law School. Additional files documenting Harvard Law can be found in the Harvard Law School Association subseries. The Correspondence series, divided into seven subseries, complements Patterson’s legal files as those letters corresponding to his court service provide a window into New York City and state politics. Finally, Patterson served as chairman of the Long Island Rail Road Commission and the American Bar Association Commission on Organized Crime. Aspects of both are also present in the collection.

Following his service in the War Department, Patterson established the legal firm of Patterson, Belknap, Webb, and Tyler. Researchers focusing on international law and politics will want to consult files related to Patterson’s postwar law practice. The Marshall Plan, the United Nations, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and the European Common Market are all topics that appear in the collection. Additionally, Patterson served on a number of internationally facing or engaged organizations including the American Association for the United Nations, the American Committee on United Europe, the Atlantic Union Committee, the United States Committee for a United Nations Genocide Convention, the Committee on the Permanent Court of Arbitration, and the United States Commission on Organization of the Executive Branch of the Government. The collection also includes a file regarding Francis Joseph Cardinal Spellman and the Vatican’s war claims in the late 1940s.

One final note on correspondence, Patterson interacted with a number of major political and legal figures of the era, and the collection features many of them including Bernard Baruch, Benjamin Cardozo, Allen Dulles, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Felix Frankfurter, Charles Evans Hughes, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Herbert H. Lehman, George C. Marshall, Roscoe Pound, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S, Truman, and Robert F. Wagner among many others. Researchers should consult the last paragraph of the “Scope and Content Note” of the finding aid for a more comprehensive summary of Patterson’s correspondence.

  1. "Legal Experts Hail Selection of Patterson," New York Herald Tribune, February 10, 1939. Back to text

The following collection title links to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. A link to the collection finding aid is included when available.