Henry W. Goddard

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Henry W. Goddard
United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
In office
Nominated by President Warren G. Harding
Personal details
Born May 4, 1876
New York City
Died July 26, 1955(1955-07-26) (aged 79)
Playing golf in Connecticut
Nationality American
Political party Republican Party (United States)
Alma mater New York Law School

Henry Warren Goddard (May 4, 1876 – August 26, 1955) was a longtime federal judge in New York City.

Born in New York, Goddard graduated from New York Law School in 1901. From 1901 to 1923, he worked as a lawyer in private practise in Manhattan and became active in Republican politics. In 1923, President Warren G. Harding appointed Goddard as a judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, filling a newly created seat on the court.[1] Goddard served as an active judge until 1954.

Goddard's caseload varied during his 31 years on the bench. Civil cases heard by Goddard included a 1929 suit filed by Anne Nichols against Universal Pictures, alleging that the screenplay for the film The Cohens and Kellys was plagiarized from Nichols' Broadway play Abie's Irish Rose.[2] Goddard's conclusion that there had been no copyright infringement was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in an opinion by Learned Hand.[3] Goddard also ruled on the invasion-of-privacy case that William James Sidis filed against The New Yorker magazine, based on an article written by James Thurber; Goddard's decision to dismiss that case was affirmed by the Second Circuit in a widely cited ruling.[4]

In still another case involving media issues, Goddard signed a consent decree in 1940 ending the practice of block booking of motion pictures into theatres. In 1948, Goddard presided over the case of Danny Gardella, who challenged the antitrust exemption for major league baseball in a dispute arising from his attempt to return to the major leagues after having played a season in the Mexican League.[5]

In criminal matters, Goddard was best known as the judge who presided over the second perjury trial of Alger Hiss, in 1949 and 1950, after Hiss's earlier trial before Judge Samuel Kaufman resulted in a hung jury.[6][7] Goddard was more lenient in his evidentiary rulings than Kaufman had been, allowing both prosecutor Thomas Murphy and Hiss's counsel, Claude Cross, to elicit testimony that Kaufman had excluded, including the opinion of a psychiatrist who had examined the government's key witness, Whittaker Chambers.[8][9] Hiss was convicted at the second trial, and Goddard sentenced him to five years in federal prison. In 1952, Hiss moved for a retrial based on newly discovered evidence relating to the typewriter on which certain incriminating documents had been typed. Goddard denied the motion, finding that Hiss failed to establish that he would probably have been acquitted had the new evidence been presented to the jury.[10]

Goddard also presided over other criminal cases ranging from violations of Prohibition in the 1920s, to espionage charges against German and German-American defendants, including Anthony Cramer, during World War II.

Off the bench, Goddard was heavily involved in charity work on behalf of the blind, including appeals for public support for The Lighthouse.[2]

In 1954, Goddard retired as a full-time judge and took senior status on the Southern District bench. He died one year later, while playing golf at a country club near his summer house in Connecticut.


  1. ^ Henry W. Goddard at the Biographical Directory of Federal Judges, a public domain publication of the Federal Judicial Center. Retrieved on August 2, 2009.
  2. ^ a b "Page 15 - Henry Goddard, Ex-Jurist, Dead". The New York Times. August 27, 1955. Retrieved August 2, 2009. 
  3. ^ Nichols v. Universal Pictures Corp., 45 F.2d 119 (2d Cir. 1930); see Gerald Gunther, Learned Hand: The Man and the Judge (Alfred A. Knopf 1994), pp. 323-25. ISBN 0-674-51880-2
  4. ^ Sidis v. F-R Publishing Co., 34 F. Supp. 19 (S.D.N.Y. 1939), aff'd, 113 F.2d 806 (2d Cir. 1940).
  5. ^ Gardella v. Chander, 79 F. Supp. 260 (S.D.N.Y. 1948), rev'd, 172 F.2d 402 (2d Cir. 1949). Goddard's position was ultimately upheld by the Supreme Court in Toolson v. New York Yankees, 346 U.S. 356 (1953).
  6. ^ "The Alger Hiss Story". New York University. 2009. Retrieved August 2, 2009. 
  7. ^ pg 183 - Steven M. Chermak, Frankie Y. Bailey. Crimes and Trials of the Century: From the Black Sox scandal to the Attica prison riots (2007 ed.). Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 360. ISBN 0-313-34110-9. 
  8. ^ Chambers, Whittaker (1952). Witness. Random House. pp. 791fn. ISBN 0-89526-571-0. 
  9. ^ United States v. Hiss, 88 F. Supp. 559 (S.D.N.Y. 1950).
  10. ^ United States v. Hiss, 107 F. Supp. 128 (S.D.N.Y. 1952), aff'd, 201 F.2d 372 (2d Cir.), cert. denied, 345 U.S. 942 (1953).
Legal offices
Preceded by
new seat
Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
Succeeded by
Archie Owen Dawson