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Wyzanski, Charles Edward, Jr.

WYZANSKI, CHARLES EDWARD, JR. (1906–1986), U.S. jurist. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Wyzanski received his A.B. from Harvard College in 1927 and his LL.B. from Harvard Law School in 1930. He served as law clerk to Judge Augustus N. Hand and Judge Learned Hand, practiced law in Boston, and then joined the New Deal Administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt as solicitor, later serving as acting secretary of labor in the Department of Labor (1933–35). From 1935 to 1937 he was on the staff of the solicitor general, arguing the constitutionality of the Wagner National Labor Relations Act and the Social Security Act. Named U.S. district judge for the district of Massachusetts, he took his seat in 1942, becoming the first Jewish judge of the United States District Court of Massachusetts. In 1966 he was elevated chief judge of the court and served in that capacity until 1971, when he assumed senior status.

Wyzanski served as president of the board of overseers of Harvard University and, from 1952, was a trustee of the Ford Foundation. In the role of teacher, Wyzanski was a lecturer in government at Harvard University (1942–43) and in law at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1949–50) and Stanford University (1949–51). In 1974 he was a professor of law at Columbia University.

Wyzanski received many public and academic honors. His essays have been collected under the title Whereas: A Judge's Premises (1965; paperback repr., New Meaning of Justice). He contributed to the Harvard Law Review and other professional and popular magazines. Considered one of the ablest judges on the federal bench, Wyzanski's decisions were respected as far-reaching and erudite. He believed that, although it was important to learn the principles of the law, it was even more necessary to accept the challenge of understanding them. In his analysis of the Nuremberg Trials in 1946, he noted that law is not power but restraint on power, a maxim he endeavored to apply in his legal thinking.

Harvard established the Judge Charles Wyzanski Award, a prize given to students who are interested in the law, vigorous conversation, and theoretical and practical issues of justice.


D. Lawson (ed.), Ten Fighters for Peace: An Anthology (1971); P. Irons, The New Deal Lawyers (1982).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.