Judge Irving R. Kaufman was just 40 years old when he presided over the Rosenberg case. Kaufman was something of a prodigy, he had graduated from Fordham College at the age of 18. Although a Jew, he earned the nickname "Pope Kaufman" from his fellow students for his excellence in the school's required Christian courses. Kaufman finished Law School at 20, a year before he was eligible to take the Bar exam.
The tough Kaufman was described by Julius Rosenberg as looking "like a cross between a rabbinical student and an Army sergeant."
Kaufman's trial rulings, harsh sentences, and post trial interference in the Rosenbergs-Sobell case earned him the enmity of critics including Justice Frankfurter, and probably delayed his elevation to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals by several years. In 1961, he was finally promoted to the Court of Appeals, where he would finish his judicial career.