CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Yale CrimProf Abraham S. Goldstein: 1925-2005

From a press release:  "Abraham S. Goldstein, an influential scholar of criminal law and former dean of Yale Law School, died on Saturday, August 20, 2005, of a heart attack at his home in Woodbridge, Connecticut. Goldstein taught at YLS for almost fifty years and was, at his death, Sterling Professor Emeritus of Law and Professorial Lecturer in Law. He was 80.  "Abe Goldstein was a pathbreaking criminal law scholar who understood the underbelly of our justice system, and a courageous leader during a difficult time for our School," said Yale Law School Dean Harold Hongju Koh. "In his scholarship as well as his deanship, his singular strength was his integrity."  Goldstein grew up in New York City, the fourth child of Ukrainian immigrants. His father sold fruit and vegetables from a pushcart on the Lower East Side, and the family spoke only Yiddish at home.

In 1976, when accepting Yale Law School's Citation of Merit (the School's highest award), Goldstein recalled that as a boy he never expected to attend an elite university. "Places like Yale were the stuff of dreams and story books, inhabited by remarkable people," he said.  Goldstein attended City College of New York and served from 1943 to 1946 in the U.S. Army as a demolitions specialist and counterintelligence agent in Europe. After graduating from CCNY, Goldstein attended Yale Law School with the support of the G.I. Bill. He said in the same acceptance speech that this changed his life: "I became the beneficiary of an historic process which brought to the great American Universities the most diverse student body they ever had--diverse in race, in religion and in ethnic background, and diverse in the unusual quality of our wartime experience."  Goldstein worked briefly for the late Raoul Berger in the law firm Cook and Berger, and then became the first law clerk for the newly appointed Judge David L. Bazelon on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Goldstein spent his next five years as a partner at Donohue and Kaufmann in Washington, D.C., working on complex civil and criminal litigation. In this time, he represented a man on Joseph McCarthy's list of alleged communists at the State Department who was accused of lying to a State Department Loyalty Board. Years later, as a Yale faculty member, Goldstein helped defend then-Yale Chaplain William Sloane Coffin, who was charged with conspiracy to incite draft evasion.  In 1956, Goldstein was recruited to join Yale Law School as an associate professor. He became a leader in legal education. At the same time, points out Kate Stith, Lafayette S. Foster Professor of Law, his scholarship drew on his experiences in private practice and in the courtroom. Says Stith, "He wrote with elegance and intellectual power. But ultimately he was not concerned with theory; he was concerned with the impact of criminal law doctrines in real courtrooms and in the real world." Goldstein's first law review article after leaving private practice dealt with the dangers and ambiguities of the law of conspiracy, and it grew out of his experiences as a litigator.

His next article, published in 1960, examined criminal trial procedure, and concluded that the "balance of advantage" lay with the prosecution. Stith says that this article "presaged, in a general way, the changes in the law wrought by the Warren Court over the next decade." She notes that these two early articles, along with many of Goldstein's later writings, became tremendously influential. "While now classics, these writings were pathbreaking when published," says Stith "Moreover, each soon became the seminal work in the area, spawning an immense amount of further research and scholarship."  In 1967, Goldstein published The Insanity Defense, which meticulously examined the development of this legal defense. Goldstein argued for a robust but limited insanity defense, whereby mentally ill offenders would be treated rather than punished.

"Goldstein was among the early scholars to examine the subtle differences and similarities among adversarial systems and inquisitorial systems of criminal procedure around the world," says Stith, noting his 1977 article, The Myth of Judicial Supervision in Three Inquisitorial Systems. Stith also argues that Goldstein's warning not to casually borrow legal practices from other nations with different histories and cultures is representative of his carefully balanced approach to scholarship.  Goldstein also published influential work on the role of prosecutorial discretion in the U.S., including, in 1980, The Passive Judiciary: Prosecutorial Discretion and the Guilty Plea. He was among the early proponents of introducing a respectful role for victims in criminal prosecution. His exhaustive study of the criminal jury concluded that the tradition of secret deliberations is of critical importance. He became a professor of law in 1961, and then the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law in 1967.

In 1970, Goldstein was named dean of Yale Law School. It was a turbulent time in American higher education and at the Law School, and Goldstein worked to reunite faculty and students into a cohesive and creative community. He served one five-year term as dean, then returned to his role as a teacher and scholar, satisfied that he had helped restore the Law School's stability and reinvigorated its faculty. Goldstein brought numerous new professors to YLS, including current professors Michael Reisman, Owen Fiss, Bruce Ackerman, Mirjan Damaska, and Alvin Klevorick. At the end of his term, Goldstein was praised for "tough-minded yet understanding leadership" by Yale President Kingman Brewster.  Goldstein was named Sterling Professor of Law in 1975. He published four books and dozens of articles. He also served briefly as provost of Yale University. He was a visiting professor at a number of institutions, including Cambridge University, Stanford Law School, Hebrew University, and Tel Aviv University. He received honorary degrees from New York Law School and DePaul University. Goldstein was selected as one of six distinguished faculty members to serve on the Presidential Search Committee that selected current Yale President Richard C. Levin.

Goldstein took an active role in civic life. He served on the Connecticut Governor's Commission to Revise Criminal Statutes, Planning Committee on Criminal Administration, Board of Parole, and Judicial Council. For more than two decades, he took on various leadership roles at the American Jewish Congress. He also worked on several projects with the Central European and Eurasian Law Initiative of the American Bar Association.

Goldstein is survived by his wife, Sarah (Poleyeff) Goldstein; children William Goldstein of Portland, Oregon, and Marianne Goldstein of Peoria, Arizona; brother Sidney Goldstein of Washington, D.C.; three stepdaughters, Laura Schafer, Sylvia Schafer, and Amy Schafer Boger; and six grandchildren. His first wife, Ruth (Tessler) Goldstein, predeceased him."  [Mark Godsey]

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