Judge Leonard C. Crouch’s tenure on the Court of Appeals was relatively brief: only four years. Nevertheless, his “opinions as a judicial officer of this State are an enduring contribution to our jurisprudence.”1
Leonard Callender Crouch was born July 30, 1866, in Kingston, New York, to Henry Gage Crouch and Almira Callender Crouch. He remembered his father, a newspaper owner and publisher, as “a whole-souled Democrat, a follower of Douglas, and a member of his party when he traveled about the country to debate with Lincoln.”2 Judge Crouch acquired his father’s passion for politics and democratic principles “by inhalation.”3 Yet this lifelong Democrat refused to be categorized as a liberal or conservative.
All I can say . . . is I don’t believe you can pin that kind of tag on me. I am liberal about some things and conservative about others. I don’t think we can throw away everything we have because it doesn’t work perfectly, nor do I think we should hesitate to improve it merely because we have had it a long time.
You know, this fashion of classifying judges as liberal or conservative started when Justice Holmes went into the [S]upreme [C]ourt. He declared that he felt the legislatures were the proper source of action on matters affecting social welfare, and that the judiciary should be slow to deny the constitutionality of anything they originated in that line. The viewpoint was considered revolutionary then, and the public was quick to hail it as evidence of a new liberality on the bench. I think it is unfairly applied in most cases, because you can’t separate many judges into two different classes like that.4
As a boy, Leonard Crouch would spend time around his father’s newspaper printing shop, the Kingston Argus, and he worked there before attending college. He became a qualified printer and was publisher of the Argus for a time after his father’s death. In 1889, he was graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Cornell University, and attended one year at its Law School. He completed his legal education at Syracuse University, was admitted to the New York bar in 1891, and launched his legal career in Kingston working at the Eastern Building and Loan Association.
In 1895, Crouch married Anne Laura Paine of Troy, Pennsylvania, and shortly thereafter joined the Industrial Savings and Loan Association in Syracuse. A few years later, he formed a partnership with Albert P. Fowler and Irving D. Vann, son of Court of Appeals Associate Judge Irving G. Vann5, and continued in the practice of law until 1913, when Governor William Sulzer appointed Crouch to fill a vacancy on the State Supreme Court.
In 1923, “the fine quality of judicial workmanship for which he was noted”6: together with a year of teaching at the Syracuse University School of Law, prompted Governor Alfred E. Smith to name Judge Crouch to the Appellate Division, Fourth Department. While serving on the Appellate Division, he continued his ties to the academy, appearing as a guest lecturer at both Cornell and Syracuse Universities. In 1928, as the Democratic nominee for the Court of Appeals, he was defeated by Irving G. Hubbs, whom he later joined on the Court. In June 1931, Syracuse University awarded Judge Crouch an honorary doctorate.
Judge Crouch’s outstanding reputation as a legal scholar attracted the attention of Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt, who in 1932 appointed him to fill the vacancy created by Court of Appeals Judge Cuthbert W. Pound‘s appointment as Chief Judge. That seat was left vacant due to Chief Judge Benjamin N. Cardozo‘s selection for the United States Supreme Court. In 1934, Judge Crouch was elected to a full term on the Court of Appeals. Among Judge Crouch’s numerous decisions for the Court was Matter of New York City Hous. Auth. v. Muller (270 NY 333 ), the first judicial holding in the United States to establish public housing as a public use for purposes of eminent domain7 – and Clark v. Dodge (269 NY 410 ), dealing with shareholder agreements.
Judge Crouch retired from the Court of Appeals on December 31, 1936, at age 70, but continued to make significant contributions. After leaving the bench, he served as an Official Referee in the Court until March 1940, bringing to a close his 27-year stellar career on the bench. From the time of his own law school graduation, Judge Crouch aspired to teach at a law school. Throughout his career as a judge he made time to teach and lecture, especially in the area of appellate practice. Between 1939 and 1941, he returned to academia as a visiting professor at Cornell University, teaching a course on problems in appellate practice to third-year law students.8
Judge Crouch was, after 1941, appointed to one of the New York State Alien Enemy Hearing Boards.9 During World War II, United States Attorney General Francis Biddle authorized the formation of such enemy alien boards to determine how to handle thousands of enemy aliens arrested nationwide since the beginning of the war.10 The potential determinations included unconditional release, parole, or internment for the duration of the war. In 1944, Judge Crouch sat on a five-person committee of the State Bar Association formed to investigate alleged crimes in the administration of justice in Albany County.11
Judge Crouch died at the age of 86 on July 2, 1953 of a heart ailment while residing with his daughter, Helen (Mrs. Joseph U. Douglass), in Falls Church, Virginia. He is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Syracuse, New York.12 In his memorial tribute to Judge Crouch, Chief Judge Lewis praised both his judicial qualities of “a disciplined mind, legal scholarship of first rank, sound judgment and a reasoned respect for judicial precedent”; and Judge Crouch’s personal qualities as an “indefatigable collaborator” possessed of integrity of character.13
Judge Crouch and his wife, Anne (d. 1942), had five children: Margaret (b. 1896), Helen (b. 1898), Henry (b. 1901), Paul (b. 1903), and Charlotte Hope (called “Hope”) (b. 1907). Only Paul and Hope had children.
Paul, a lawyer, was graduated from Cornell and Yale Law School. His children are Judith Crouch Hughes of Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, and Leonard Crouch of Cold Spring, New York. Leonard is married to Patricia Funderburk Crouch. Judith Crouch Hughes, a library assistant, married Minor Hughes, a health care administrator. They have five children, Minor (“Mike”) Hughes of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, a corporate writer; Sheila Hughes of Bainbridge Island, Washington, the CEO of an entertainment company; Kathleen Kibler of Media, Pennsylvania, an elementary school teacher; David Hughes of Atlanta, Georgia, a cartoon animator; and Colleen Hughes of Warwick, New York, a travel director. Mike Hughes’s son, Dylan, is a fifth generation Cornellian.
Hope married Dr. Ray Nash, a Dartmouth College Professor. They had three children: Charlotte Gregory Nash (d. 1998), who married James Wellman Burroughs and had a daughter, Norma; John R.A. Nash of London, England, who married Zuzanna Sulkiewicz and has a daughter, Joanna, and a stepson, Jasper; and Dr. Hope (“Holly”) Nash Wolff of Hanover, New Hampshire, and Royalton, Vermont. Dr. Nash married Christian Wolff, a Professor of Classics and of Music at Dartmouth College. Their children are Mayhew (“Hew”) of Oakland, California; Tamsen of Princeton, New Jersey; Nicholas of Royalton, Vermont; and Tristram of Hanover, New Hampshire.
This biography appears in The Judges of the New York Court of Appeals: A Biographical History, ed. Hon. Albert M. Rosenblatt (New York: Fordham University Press, 2007). It has not been updated since publication.
Address To Judge Leonard C. Crouch Upon His Retirement From The Court of Appeals, 272 NY (1936).
Cornell and Syracuse University records.
Crouch is Honored by Bench and Bar, Syracuse (N.Y.) Post-Standard, Jan. 17, 1937, p. 13.
Delta Upsilon Quarterly, July 1932.
Eminent Members of the Bench and Bar of New York, C. W. Taylor Jr. (1943), p. 55.
Fetner, Gerald, Public Power and Professional Responsibility: Julius Henry Cohen and the Origins of Public Authority, 21 Am. J. Legal Hist. 15 (1977).
Ithaca Journal, October 3, 1928, [Cornell] Alumni [Hubbs and Crouch] Face Contest for [Court of Appeals] Judgeship.
Ithaca Journal, September 18, 1942, Judge [Crouch] Rejoins [Cornell] Law Faculty.
Ithaca Journal News, March 22, 1932, Crouch Takes Up Duties on State Bench.
Ithaca Journal News, November 1, 1933, Judge Crouch Candidate of Four Parties.
Justice Crouch Leads Colorful Career in Ascending Dais of State’s Highest Court, Syracuse American, March 20, 1932, p. 12.
L. C. Crouch Dead; 24 Years A Jurist, N.Y. TIMES, Jul. 3, 1953, at 19, in ProQuest Historical Newspapers.
Matter of the New York City Hous. Auth. v. Muller, 270 NY 333 (1936).
New York Times, March 18, 1932, Crouch Appointed to Appeals Bench.
Rulings On Aliens Speeded By Biddle, N. Y. TIMES, Dec. 21, 1941, at 23, in ProQuest Historical Newspapers.
State Bar Starts Own Albany Study, N. Y. TIMES, Dec. 12, 1944, at 25, in ProQuest Historical Newspapers.
Syracuse American, January 17, 1937, “Bar Leaders Toast Crouch.”
Syracuse Post Standard, March 18, 1932, editorial.
Who was Who in America, Vol. III, Chicago, Marquis, 1960.
Published Writings Include:
Judicial Tendencies of the Court of Appeals During the Incumbency of Chief Judge Hiscock, 12 Cornell L. Q. 137 (1926-1927).
Annulment of Marriage for Fraud in New York, 6 Cornell L. Q. 401 (1920-1921).
- Chief Judge Edmund H. Lewis, In Memoriam, 306 NY ix. (1954). Judge Crouch died on July 2, 1953.
- Syracuse Jurist Becomes Appeals Court Judge, Syracuse University Alumni News, May 1932, Vol. 13, No. 8, p. 15.
- Justice of the Court of Appeals, The Delta Upsilon Quarterly for July, 1932, in Cornell University File.
- In Memoriam, 306 NY ix.
- See Fetner, Gerald, Public Power and Professional Responsibility: Julius Henry Cohen and the Origins of the Public Authority, 21 Am. J. Legal Hist. 15 (1977).
- Judge Crouch Joins Cornell Law Faculty, Syracuse American, November 30, 1941, in Cornell File
- L. C. Crouch Dead; 24 Years A Jurist, NY TIMES, July. 3, 1953, at 19, in ProQuest Historical Newspapers.
- Rulings on Aliens Speeded By Biddle, N.Y. TIMES, Dec. 21, 1941, at 23, in ProQuest Historical Newspapers.
- State Bar Starts Own Albany Study, N.Y. TIMES, Dec. 12, 1944, at 25, in ProQuest Historical Newspapers.
- Judge Crouch Dies; Well Known For State And County Work, ARDSLEY SUN LEDGER, July 10, 1953, in Syracuse University File.
- In Memoriam, 306 NY x.