Abraham S. Goldstein, 80, a pushcart peddler's son who became a criminal law scholar and dean of Yale University's law school, died Aug. 20 at his home in Woodbridge, Conn., after a heart attack.

Mr. Goldstein, the son of Ukrainian immigrants, was a Washington lawyer who specialized in civil and criminal litigation before he joined the Yale law faculty in 1956. Through crisply written and provocative books and articles, he developed a reputation as a rigorous and respected scholar.

Starting in 1970, he served a five-year term as law school dean. His tenure, as was the case at other universities, was punctuated by student protests of the Vietnam War, race matters and greater say in curriculum by students.

By several accounts, he weathered this time well. He hired younger faculty, including legal scholars Owen M. Fiss, Bruce Ackerman and Mirjan R. Damaska, as well as Alvin K. Klevorick, a Yale economist whom he recruited to the law school.

In 1978, Mr. Goldstein was named Yale University provost, the top educational and academic officer after then-president A. Bartlett Giamatti. He resigned, however, amid reports of costly renovations of the Yale-owned house occupied by the provost during a phase of budgetary cost-cutting.

Mr. Goldstein returned to full-time teaching, as Sterling professor of law, until May.

Abraham Samuel Goldstein was born in New York on July 27, 1925. The burly six-footer's Army service in Europe during World War II included work as a military policeman and in counterintelligence.

Benefiting from the G.I. Bill, he was a 1946 business administration graduate of what is now City University of New York and a 1949 graduate of Yale Law School, where he was an editor of the law journal.

He worked in Washington early in his career, notably as a clerk for Judge David L. Bazelon, who became chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Bazelon influenced the writing of Mr. Goldstein's first book, "The Insanity Defense" (1967), a well-received volume.

His other books included "The Passive Judiciary: Prosecutorial Discretion and the Guilty Plea" (1981).

Kate Stith, a Yale law professor who studies criminal and constitutional law, said "The Passive Judiciary" was most notable for its focus on the plea bargain and launched significant discussions among legal scholars.

"He felt that judges should have a larger role in deciding the fairness of such plea bargaining," Stith said, adding that Mr. Goldstein emphasized the greater public interest over "under-the-table dealmaking."

"He was concerned that without a judge playing an active role, a defendant might plead guilty to something substantially more or less than he was really guilty of in return for a lesser sentence."

She said that soon after the book was published, the law in federal court moved in that direction.

Mr. Goldstein held many visiting professorships worldwide and sat on sundry legal and law education boards.

His first wife, Ruth Tessler Goldstein, died in 1989.

Survivors include his wife of 10 years, Sarah Poleyeff Goldstein of Woodbridge; two children from his first marriage, William Goldstein of Portland, Ore., and Marianne Goldstein of Peoria, Ariz.; three stepdaughters, Laura Schafer of North Brunswick, N.J., Amy Schafer Boger of Concord, Mass., and Sylvia Schafer of Willimantic, Conn.; a brother, Sidney Goldstein of Washington; and six grandchildren.

Abraham S. Goldstein's book on the plea bargain launched numerous discussions among legal scholars.