On April 18th, 2000, the NYU Annual Survey of American Law dedicated its 57th Volume to former U.S. Senator and former Chairperson of the Peace Negotiations in Northern Ireland Commission George J. Mitchell. Speaking at the dedication in Mitchell’s honor were, among others, The Queen’s University of Belfast Vice Chancellor George Bain, New York University Professor of Law Norman Dorsen, and attorneys Berl Bernhard and Harold C. Pachios.
George Mitchell was appointed to the United States Senate in 1980 to complete the unexpired term of Senator Edmund S. Muskie, who resigned to become Secretary of State. He was elected to a full term in the Senate in 1982. Senator Mitchell went on to an illustrious career spanning 14 years in the Senate. He left the Senate in 1995 as the Senate Majority Leader, a position he had held since January 1989. For six consecutive years he was voted “the most respected member” of the Senate by a bipartisan group of senior congressional aides.
Recently, Senator Mitchell served as Chairman of the Peace Negotiations in Northern Ireland. Under his leadership an historic accord, ending decades of conflict, was agreed upon by the governments of Ireland and the United Kingdom and the political parties of Northern Ireland. In May 1998, the agreement was overwhelmingly endorsed by the voters of Ireland, North and South, in a referendum.
While in the Senate, Senator Mitchell served on the Finance, Veterans Affairs, and Environment and Public Works Committees. Senator Mitchell additionally led the successful 1990 reauthorization of the Clean Air Act, including new controls on acid rain toxins. He was the author of the first national oil spill prevention and clean up law.
Other achievements while in the Senate include leading the Senate to passage of the nation’s first child care bill, being the principal author of the low incomeousing tax credit program, being instrumental in the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, landmark legislation extending civil rights protections to the disabled.
George Mitchell’s efforts additionally led to the passage of a higher education bill that expanded opportunities for millions of Americans and leading the Senate in the ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement and creation of the World Trade Organization.
Senator Mitchell received his undergraduate degree from Bowdoin College in 1954, and then served in Berlin, Germany with the Army Intelligence Corps until 1956. He received an LL.B. degree from Georgetown University Law Center in 1960. From 1960 to 1962 he was a trial lawyer in the Justice Department in Washington, D.C. From 1962 to 1965 he served as Executive Assistant to Senator Muskie.
In 1965, he returned to Maine where he engaged in the private practice of law in Portland until 1977. He was then appointed U.S. Attorney for Maine, a position he held until 1979, when he was appointed U.S. District Judge for Maine. He resigned that position in 1980 to accept appointment to the U.S. Senate.
Senator Mitchell is the author of three books. With his colleague, Senator Bill Cohen of Maine, he wrote Men of Zeal, describing the Iran-Contra investigation. In 1990, Senator Mitchell wrote his second book, World on Fire, describing the threat of the greenhouse effect on recommending steps to curb it. His third book, published in 1997, was Not For America Alone: The Triumph of Democracy and The Fall of Communism. In 1999, Senator Mitchell wrote Making Peace, an account ot his experience in Northern Ireland.
Upon leaving the Senate, Senator Mitchell joined the Washington, D.C. law firm of Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand.