Obituary: Joseph Goldstein Sterling Professor Emeritus of Law at Yale Law School

Joseph Goldstein, Sterling Professor Emeritus of Law and Derald H. Ruttenberg Professorial Lecturer in Law at Yale, died on Sunday, March 12, at Yale New Haven Hospital after being stricken at home. He was 76.

Born in 1923 in Springfield, Massachusetts, Professor Goldstein received an A.B. from Dartmouth College in 1943, a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics in 1950, and an LL.B. from Yale Law School in 1952.

After graduating from Dartmouth, he served with the U.S. Army in World War II, where he was stationed in occupied Japan. He served in the Second Signal Service Battalion, the precursor to the National Security Agency, working on breaking Japanese codes. There he met fellow soldier Burke Marshall, who later became a colleague and collaborator at Yale Law School.

After the war, Professor Goldstein entered Yale Law School, but took time off following his first year to attend the London School of Economics, earning his Ph.D. there in 1950. He was a Fulbright Scholar in 1949-50. At the London School of Economics he met his future wife and collaborator, Sonja. He then returned to New Haven and graduated from Yale Law School in 1952. He was article and book review editor of the Yale Law Journal.

After graduation, he clerked for Judge David L. Bazelon of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, DC, and then briefly taught at Stanford and Harvard law schools before joining Yale Law School as associate professor of law in 1956. Thus began an association with Yale that spanned five decades.

Goldstein was professor of law at Yale from 1959 to 1967. In 1968, he was named the Justus H. Hotchkiss Professor of Law. One year later, he became the Walton Hale Hamilton Professor of Law, Science and Social Policy, a position he held for 10 years until he was named the Sterling Professor of Law in 1978. He was also appointed a professor at the Yale Child Study Center in 1976. He became the Sterling Professor Emeritus in 1993, but continued his teaching and research as Derald H. Ruttenberg Professorial Lecturer in Law, a position he held until his death.

A tireless and devoted teacher, Professor Goldstein was also a prolific author on a wide range of topics. He wrote and edited books on criminal law, including a 1962 casebook, “Criminal Law” (with Richard Donnelly and Richard D. Schwartz); “Crime, Law and Society” (with Abraham S. Goldstein), published in 1971; and “Criminal Law, Theory and Process” (with Alan M. Dershowitz and Richard D. Schwartz), published in 1974.

With Yale Law School Professor Burke Marshall and Jack Schwartz, he wrote “The My Lai Massacre and Its Cover Up: Beyond the Reach of Law?” published in 1976. This book grew out of discussions in a class, “Limits of the Law,” that Professor Goldstein co-taught with Professor Marshall (and later with Justice Aharon Barak, president of the Supreme Court of Israel).

Professor Goldstein also wrote and taught constitutional law. His book, “The Intelligible Constitution-The Supreme Court’s Obligation to Maintain the Constitution as Something We the People Can Understand,” was published by Oxford University Press in 1992 and released in paperback in 1995.

Professor Goldstein’s greatest impact on legal scholarship and practice was in the intersection among the disciplines of law, psychiatry and psychoanalysis.

The origins of this avenue of study can be traced all the way back to Professor Goldstein’s service as a law clerk to Judge Bazelon. At that time, the judge was focused on issues surrounding the insanity defense, and the emphasis the law puts on state of mind rather than criminal act. Following his clerkship, Goldstein prepared memoranda on the issues raised by the Durham case, a landmark opinion in which the District of Columbia adopted a new formulation of the insanity defense. In 1968, Professor Goldstein completed his psychoanalytic training at the Western New England Psychoanalytic Institute.

For 10 years, Professor Goldstein worked side by side with Yale Law School Professor and psychiatrist Jay Katz, a specialist in family law and in psychoanalysis and the law. Out of their collaboration came two important books. “The Family and the Law,” published in 1965, was the first casebook designed for students of law to examine the interactions between family and psychoanalysis as an important area of inquiry. The second Goldstein/Katz collaboration was “Psychoanalysis, Psychiatry and Law,” published in 1966 (co-authored with Alan Dershowitz).

Following his work with Professor Katz, Goldstein embarked on a project with Albert J. Solnit, the director of the Yale Child Study Center, and with Anna Freud, daughter of Sigmund Freud. From this professional collaboration came three groundbreaking books on the relationship (legal and otherwise) between children and their parents. The volumes have been widely cited by legal scholars and practitioners alike, and have been translated into numerous languages. The first of these three books, “Beyond the Best Interests of the Child,” was first published in 1973. The second book, “Before the Best Interests of the Child,” was published in 1979, and the third, “In the Best Interests of the Child,” was published in 1986.

Professor Goldstein’s last book, a compendium of the topics discussed in the “Best Interests” trilogy, was called “The Best Interests of the Child-The Least Detrimental Alternative.” First published in 1996, it was issued in paperback in 1998. In these final two publishing projects, Professor Goldstein’s wife, Sonja Goldstein, joined the three original authors as a co-author.

Beyond his scholarly pursuits, Professor Goldstein was active in public service. One of the many organizations to which he devoted his time, compassion and expertise was the Friends of the Library of the Supreme Court of Israel. At the time of his death he was president of that organization, a position he had held since 1996. Since 1978 he served on the board of directors of the New Haven Legal Assistance Association, Inc. He was also a member of the board of the Friends of Legal Services of South Central Connecticut and served as president in 1981-82. He was a board member of the Sigmund Freud Archives from 1968 until the present. In addition, he was a founding board member of the Vera Institute of Justice in New York City in 1966-an organization dedicated to urban and social reform and to encouraging just practice in public services. His work for that board continued until the time of his death.

Throughout his life, Professor Goldstein was honored for his scholarship and his contributions to the field of law. A fellow of the American Academy of Art and Sciences and a member of the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine, he was also the recipient of the Charles J. Parker Legal Services Award of the Connecticut Bar Association in 1983. In 1984, the American Psychoanalytic Association conferred upon him honorary membership “in recognition of his contribution to psychoanalysis as a scholar and teacher as applied to the fields of law and psychiatry.” He received an honorary doctorate from the Faculty of Law of Goethe University in 1985; and a Special Achievement Award from the New Haven Legal Assistance Association in 1989. In 1990, the International Academy of Law and Mental Health presented him with the Philippe Pinel Award at its annual meeting.

Professor Goldstein is survived by his wife, the former Sonja Lambek, with whom he co-authored two books and numerous articles; four children: Joshua of Cambridge, Massachusetts; Anne of Hartford, Connecticut; Jeremiah of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Daniel of Davis, California; and eight grandchildren. Also surviving are a brother, E. Ernest Goldstein of Texas; and a sister, Miriam Sommer of New Haven.

A service for Professor Goldstein was held at noon on Tuesday, March 14, 2000 at Temple Mishkan Israel, Hamden, Connecticut. Interment at the Grove Street Cemetery in New Haven followed the service. A memorial service at Yale Law School will be held at a later date.

Memorial contributions may be made to New Haven Legal Assistance and to the Friends of the Library of the Supreme Court of Israel.

Share this with Facebook Share this with Twitter Share this with LinkedIn Share this with Email Print this

Media Contact

Gila Reinstein: gila.reinstein@yale.edu, 203-432-1325