David Dudley Field was born in Haddam, Middlesex County, Connecticut, on February 13, 1805. He was educated by private tutors, and then attended Williams College, Massachusetts. Following his graduation in 1825, Field began his legal studies in the law office of Harmanus Bleecker in Albany, New York. He was admitted to the bar in 1828 and set up a very successful practice in New York City. After the Civil War, he argued several constitutional law cases before the Supreme Court of the United States.
In 1837, David Dudley Field started a campaign to reform the New York judicial system, which culminated many years later at the Constitutional Convention of 1846. In 1847, the Legislature appointed him to a three- person commission charged with drafting a code of practice and procedure for the new court system. He was widely acknowledged as the principle draftsman of the code which influenced civil procedure worldwide and became known as the Field Code. Field was also involved in drafting a code of criminal procedure and, between 1857 and 1865, he served on a commission charged with preparing codes of substantive law (political, penal and civil). Although New York did not adopt these codes, they were implemented in California.
Field was originally an anti-slavery Democrat, but joined the Republican Party in 1856, and was a member of the Peace Convention of 1861 which sought to prevent the impending civil war. He supported the Lincoln Administration throughout the Civil War, but afterward returned to the Democratic Party and served briefly in the Forty-fourth Congress to complete the term of Smith Ely, Jr., who had been elected mayor of New York City.
On his return to New York, he resumed the practice of law.
David Dudley Field died in New York City on April 13, 1894.
Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. FIELD, David Dudley, (1805-1894).
Philip J. Bergan, Owen M. Fiss, Charles W. McCurdy. The Fields and the Law: Essays (1986)