In 2001, the NYU Annual Survey of American Law dedicated its 58th Volume to New York University Frederick I. and Grace A. Stokes Professor of Law Norman Dorsen. Speaking at the dedication in Dorsen’s honor were, among others, former Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, federal judge James L. Oakes, and New York University School of Law Professors Burt Neuborne, Sylvia Law, and Alexander Boraine. The tributes are published in Volume 58, Issue 1.
When Senator Joseph McCarthy brought his campaign of reckless anti-Communism against the United States Army in August 1953, one of the smaller consequences was a change in the life of Norman Dorsen, then twenty-two years old. Barely a month earlier, just after graduation from law school, Dorsen was sworn in as an assistant to the General Counsel to the Secretary of the Army, who was charged with resisting McCarthy. When the dust cleared after the famous Army-McCarthy Hearings, McCarthy’s reputation was shattered, and Dorsen had become a devoted civil libertarian.
After two clerkships, a Fulbright year at the London School of Economics, and stints in private law practice and local politics, Dorsen in March 1961 became an assistant professor of law and director of the Arthur Garfield Hays Civil Liberties Program at NYU School of Law. Since then, Dorsen has fashioned an international reputation.
As a scholar, Dorsen has written or edited nine books and dozens of articles. As an appellate litigator, he participated in scores of cases, arguing six constitutional cases in the U.S. Supreme Court. Among cases he participated in are Gideon v. Wainright, in Gault, Levy v. Louisiana, Shapiro v. Thompson, Brandenburg v. Ohio, The Pentagon Papers case, Roe v. Wade, and the Nixon Tapes case.
Dorsen also has been an organizational leader, serving as the first president of the Society of American Law Teachers, the chairman of a U.S. government panel that revamped the rules for FDA approval of pharmaceutical drugs, and above all as president of the American Civil Liberties Union from 1976 to 1991, a critical period in the organization’s history.
In his post-ACLU period Dorsen is not taking it easy. He is Chairman of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, for which he has traveled on missions throughout the world, and he is the founding president of the U.S. Association of Constitutional Law. He recently chaired a U.S. Treasury panel that investigated allegations of racism and sexism by federal and local law enforcement agents.
Portions of this dedication have been published in Volume 58, Issue 1.