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Philip Halpern Papers

Identifier: LSC-10

Scope and Contents

The papers of Philip Halpern relate primarily to his civic duties as an advisor to the United States Delegation to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and as a member of the United Nations Sub-commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities with interspersed personal correspondence pertinent to his private life as lawyer, parent, and friend. Also included are many speeches made at various presentations as well as a collection of diverse pamphlets, leaflets, and memorandums.


  • 1929 - 1969


Language of Materials

Minimal United Nations materials is French or Spanish.

Conditions Governing Access

Materials can be examined by qualified researchers in the Law Library during hours of operation during which Law Reference Librarians are present. In order to insure access, researchers are advised to contact the Law Library in advance of visits.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright for the materials in the collection does not reside with the Law Library. Therefore, patrons wishing to publish any item, or part of an item from this collection for any purpose, are responsible for securing requisite permissions. Copies may be made only by library personnel.

Biographical / Historical

Philip Halpern was a noted Buffalo jurist, New York State Supreme Court judge, and a leader in the movement to ensure human rights throughout the world. Born in Buffalo, New York, on November 12, 1902, he was the son of Samuel N. and Rebecca L. Halpern. He attended local public schools, and determined to become a lawyer then, he lost no time in developing his talent for public speaking. At the age of 12, he won first prize in the Richmond oratorical contest, a city wide event; while a student at Hutchinson High School, from which he graduated in 1917, he represented Western New York in the Hamilton oratorical contest held at Hamilton College, placing second. During World War I - still a boy in his teens - he addressed groups throughout the city in liberty bond drives. Halpern earned the funds to finance his college education himself, working summers at any job that came his way. A graduate of the University of Buffalo Law School at 20, he had to wait a year for admission to the Bar. For 18 months he associated with George D. Yeomans of New York City, counsel for the Brooklyn-Manhattan Transit Company. True to his custom of making the most of his time, he took evening courses at the School of Social Research in New York City. His return to Buffalo followed close upon his admission to the Bar. Since February 1, 1925, he had been practicing law in the Prudential Building. In 1931 he formed a partnership with Milton H. Friedman, continuing his private practice until he was elected to the bench. Philip Halpern was also a Professor of Law at the University of Buffalo from 1925-43. He was Acting Dean of the Law School from 1943-46 and Dean of the Law School from 1946-47 returning as Acting Dean once again in 1952 for two years. During his sojurn at the University of Buffalo, he considered women students as able as men: “The opportunities for women lawyers are increasing at a rapid rate. In metropolitan centers, they are already excellent, and the last vestiges of resistance in the courts undoubtedly will disappear when women become eligible for jury duty throughout the country.” (BCE 3-31-35, Sec. 9, p. 9) His public career began in 1944 when he was appointed by Governor Thomas E. Dewey of New York State as Chief Counsel to the Public Service Commission. He held this post until 1948 when he became an Associate Justice of the New York State Supreme Court serving as a trial justice for four years. In September, 1952, he was appointed to the Third Department, Appellate Division until January, 1958, when he was elevated to the Fourth Department. During these times, Justice Halpern, on Attorney General Herbert Brownell’s recommendation in 1953, was appointed to the post of principle advisor to Mrs. Oswald B. Lord, a member of the United States Delegation to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. He distinguished himself at the sessions held in Geneva, Switzerland in 1951 and 1953 and New York City in 1954. Halpern, once President of Buffalo’s Council on World Affairs, had a good background for counseling the United States Delegation. He supported the State Department’s stand to refuse approval of human rights treaties, ‘treaties will never work in enforcing world human rights because there is no common ground among governments on the question.” (BCE 5-11-53, p. 11) He was also a member of the United Nations Sub-commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities from 1954 until his death in 1963. Justice Halpern’s career was interspersed with counsellorship in cases involving the constitutionality of State statutes, construction of labor laws, City home-rule issues, validity of charter amendments and public utility franchises. He was special counsel to Buffalo’s Common Council in an action against the mayor to establish the validity of a local law organizing the City’s Health Department. Taken to the Court of Appeals, the Common Council won. Other civic duties included three years on the Counsel for the Committee on Practice and Evidence, a subcommittee of the New York State Commission on the Administration of Justice. As a result of this post, he published a pamphlet containing his legislative report on Recommended Changes In Practice, Procedure, and Evidence. He was a member of Enemy Alien Hearing Board for the district of Western New York in World War II; a member of the law committee of the Erie County Republican Party and editor of the Erie County Bar Bulletin (1933-38), of which he was the founder; vice-president of the Federation of Bar Associations of Western New York (1941-43); president of the Foreign Policy Association of Buffalo, now the Council on World Affairs; a member of B’Nai Brith; Jonathan David Lodge, Knights of Pythias; trustee of Buffalo District, Zionist Organization of America; past trustee of Temple Beth El; former Chairman of the Committee of Civil Practice Act of the New York State Bar Association; and he served several years on the Board of Governors of the Jewish Welfare Society. His professional memberships included the American Law Institute, American Bar Association, Lawyers Club of Buffalo, Wilmot Club, Marshall Club of Buffalo, Buffalo Club, Sigma Alpha Mu Fraternity, and the Montefiore Club. Among the many awards he received are a citation for Leadership in Education and Public Affairs, University of Buffalo (1951); National Brotherhood Citation at the National Conference of Christians and Jews (1954); Man of the Year, Sigma Alpha Mu Fraternity (1955); Peter Canisius Medal as Defender of Human Rights (1962). In 1963, Maurice Frey, in memory of Supreme Court Justice Halpern, presented 12 prayer books to the University of Buffalo Chapter of Hillel Foundation. On August 25, 1963, Philip Halpern died. Surviving were his wife, Goldene Friedman of Elrnira; two sons, James Bladen Halpern, then of the Legal Staff of the Securities Exchange Commission, Washington, D.C., and Charles Robert Halpern, who was a junior at the Yale University School of Law at the time of his father’s death; a brother, Julius; a sister, Mrs. Samuel S. Soloman of New York City; and a granddaughter. Services were held at Temple Beth El and burial was at Forest Lawn Cemetery.


28 Linear Feet (55 manuscript boxes, 2 oversized boxes.)


Personal papers of Philip Halpern, jurist and law school dean, including correspondence, speeches, notes, legal opinions and records, articles.


Collection is arranged into seven series: I. Correspondence, 1938-1962. II. Law, 1930-1962, subseries A-D as follows: A. General, 1930-1962. B. Erie County, 1934-1955. C. New York State, 1938-1962. D. United States, 1937-1959. III. New York Supreme Court, 1938-1963. IV. Subject file, 1929-1963. V. Robert Jackson, 1935-1962. VI. Anti-Semitism, 1953-1969. VII. United Nations Sub-commission on the Prevention of Discrimination & Protection of Minorities, with subseries A-L as follows: A. Indian Affairs. B. Civil Rights, 1953-1962. C. Middle East, 1952-1962. D. Education, 1938-1962. E. International Labor Organization, 1933-1961. F. Non-governmental organizations, 1955-1961. G. Political discrimination, 1953-1962. H. United Nations Economic and Social Council (UNESCO), 1953-1954. I. Religion, 1949-1963. J. General, 1948-1962. K. Speeches, 1933-1962. L. News clippings, 1932-1963. VIII. United Nations Documents, 1948-1963, subseries as follows: A. U.N. General Assembly, 1951-1963. B. UNESCO Commission on Human Rights, 1951-1962. C. United Nations Economic and Social Council (UNESCO), 1949-1960. D. UNESCO Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, 1950-1963. E. UNESCO Official Records, 1948-1961. F. United Nations General Assembly Official Records, 1950-1955. G. Printed Material UN and Human Rights, 1948-1961. Alphabetical arrangement within series, chronological arrangement within each folder.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Materials were transferred from Buffalo History Museum, 11/14/2017. (Donor to Buffalo History Museum unknown.)


No accruals are expected to this collection.

Processing Information

Arranged/described; 1972; Elaine A. Rushak. Digitized/described; 05/28/2015; Amy Miller. Updated upon transfer; 12/22/2017; Ellen McGrath. Updated and entered into ArchiveSpace 11/23/2021; John Beatty. Parts of collection still unprocessed or minimally processed.

Finding Aid for the Philip Halpern Papers
Original finding aid prepared by Elaine A. Rushak. Updated by Amy Miller, Ellen McGrath, and John Beatty.
1 January 2022
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Charles B. Sears Law Library Repository

O'Brian Hall
Buffalo New York 14260 United States