Justice William B. Carswell was born on January 8, 1883 in Edinburgh, Scotland to David Bruce and Ann Brown Carswell. His family moved to Brooklyn in 1887. He attended public school before earning his law degree in 1908 and an LL.M. in 1909, both from Brooklyn Law School. He was admitted to the bar on October 6, 1909 and began working at the law firm of Carmody and Carswell.
In 1912 and again in 1914, Carswell won election to the State Senate for the Sixth District of Kings County. In 1917, he became Assistant Corporation Counsel for Brooklyn, a position he held until his election to the Supreme Court in 1922. Carswell was designated to the Appellate Division, Second Department on October 18, 1927 by Gov. Alfred E. Smith, and was re-designated by Governors Roosevelt, Lehman and Dewey.
In addition, Carswell served as dean of Brooklyn Law School from 1945 to 1953, leading the school through the post-war years and increasing enrollment. His publications included a juror’s primer in 1926. He also served as a member of the American, New York State, and Brooklyn Bar Associations, treasurer of the First Reformed Church in Brooklyn, vice president and trustee of the Caledonian Hospital in Brooklyn, and participated in several fraternal organizations.
He married Charlotte E. Riegger and had two sons, Robert and Donald, who both became Navy lieutenants. He died while vacationing with his wife in Sherbrooke, Quebec on September 7, 1953 at the age of 70, just months before he was due to retire. At the time of his death, he had been the longest-serving Justice of the Appellate Division, with 26 years on the bench.
“JUSTICE CARSWELL DIES IN QUEBEC, 70.” New York Times (1923-Current file): 31. ProQuest Historical Newspapers: The New York Times (1851-2007). Sep 08 1953. Web. 24 Aug. 2011 http://search.proquest.com/docview/112590717?accountid=8012.
“Honorable William Brown Carswell.” Eminent Members of the Bench and Bar of New York. San Francisco: Knight-Counihan, 1943. 110. Print.
“Scholarships and Grants: Carswell Scholarship.” Brooklyn Law School. Web. 06 Oct. 2011. http://www.brooklaw.edu/Admissions/financingyoureducation/scholarshipsandgrants/meritscholarships.aspx?.
“William B. Carswell.” Biographical information sheets. Appellate Division, Second Department Library, Brooklyn.