Ruth Bader Ginsburg writes: Among law teachers and scholars, Norman Dorsen was the very best. Mindful that law exists (or should exist) to serve the general welfare, he strived mightily to promote justice, equal and accessible to all. In my law school days, Norman was clerking for First Circuit Judge Magruder, the year prior to his clerkship with Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan. Often at the house quartering the Harvard Law Review or in the Law Library, he served as a senior counselor to second-year law students, including his brother, David Dorsen, and me. It was the beginning of his career as a gifted teacher of law. Through the years he led the American Civil Liberties Union and thereafter, I benefitted from his wit and wisdom, and was inspired by his passionate advocacy of human rights. He was instrumental in making New York University Law School a global leader in legal education, an institution attracting students and faculty who prioritize the public good. The works of his fine hand, and his tenacity in advancing rights fundamental to a just society, will continue to guide and encourage generations of jurists, lawyers, and law students. *** Richard L. Revesz writes: When I joined the faculty in 1985, Norman Dorsen had already been a professor at the Law School for twenty-four years. He took me out to lunch during my first month on the faculty, and from that first conversation on, it was clear to me that the courageous actions that Norman and a few of his contemporaries on the faculty had set in motion in the early 1960s were critical foundations of the Law School’s success. In 1991, Norman wrote a lengthy article for the NYU Law School Magazine entitled “How NYU Became a Major Law School.” It should be required reading for any student of institutional transformation and is a great reminder of the power of an individual’s leadership. Norman was an extraordinary leader. To illustrate that point, I will quote liberally from Norman’s article. From the moment of his arrival on the faculty, Norman led a group of young faculty members who had a vision for making the school a leading academic institution. In Norman’s words: “Looking back, it is evident that the younger faculty members differed considerably in personal history, temperament, and philosophy. Yet we were largely united and rather aggressive about the vigor and intellectual quality that the Law School could achieve.” And they were willing to take considerable professional risks to bring about this change: “Eventually, after a long and painful struggle, the President of the University heeded insistent faculty entreaties and decided that a change was required and Miguel de Capriles … announced his resignation.” Reflecting on the Law School, Norman said: “For me there have been three ideas … that have epitomized a place that I can be proud of: quality, variety, and heart.” On quality: “[W]hether it is the faculty or student body or administration, whether in teaching or scholarship, whether in one program or another, we must aim high and prize intelligence, imagination, and wit.” On variety: “In the individual background and philosophy of faculty members and students, in the areas of scholarly interest, in analytical and intellectual styles, … it is essential to encourage differences, even to revel in them.” On heart: “[I]t relates to a moral conception of the law, an approach that takes into account the human consequences of rules and structures.” As justifiably proud as Norman was about his accomplishments, he was a realist about the permanence of these gains: “[W]e must recognize that the Law School’s immense gains are reversible. To prevent this we must be alert to ensure perpetuation of high quality and the other elements that distinguish the school.” Over the years, Norman and I saw eye to eye on a number of significant institutional issues but disagreed on a few others. That faculty members who shared a great ambition for the Law School could have such disagreements is a tribute to the transformational work that Norman set in motion. Norman’s great legacy is that faculty members can now debate different views without having to fear that the gains for which Norman had fought so hard would be eroded. That’s a great legacy, and what’s remarkable is that it is only one of the many great legacies that Norman leaves. *** Michel Rosenfeld writes: It is a great honor and pleasure to contribute to this celebration of the life and extraordinary trajectory, crucial influence, and lasting impact of Norman Dorsen on civil liberties, human rights and the legal academy. It is also especially gratifying to have this tribute appear in I•CON, the journal that owes its existence to Norman Dorsen’s superlative vision, gritty perseverance and organizational acumen. I closely witnessed how Dorsen created I•CON ex nihilo as I had the privilege of working with him from the journal’s beginnings as a mere promising concept until its firm entrenchment as the widely regarded leading journal in its field well within the first decade of its initial launch. I have greatly enjoyed and benefited from a number of close collaborations with Dorsen in several important projects spanning over a couple decades. Although I had known of Professor Dorsen since my law school student days, when I used his political and civil rights case book, I did not actually meet him until the 1990s. We met as I was working with Professor Louis Henkin of the Columbia Law School, to generate greater interest and participation among American constitutionalists in international and comparative constitutional law through the International Association of Constitutional Law (IACL). Dorsen agreed to join the effort and, thanks to his decisive leadership and outstanding organizational skills, we succeeded well beyond our highest expectations in boosting interest among US judges and constitutional scholars in the IACL and in bringing IACL conferences and activities to the USA. Throughout the two decades that I worked closely with him, what I found most amazing and inspiring about Dorsen, who was in his mid sixties when we began collaborating, was his inexhaustible energy and curiosity, his eagerness to undertake highly ambitious new projects, his ability to master new fields and challenges with an open mind, uncanny organizational skills, and always fair and impeccable judgment. When I started working with him, Dorsen could have easily rested on his laurels as the long time President of the ACLU, the much admired advocate in landmark Supreme Court cases, the widely recognized civil liberties scholar, and the great institutional builder who had been at the forefront of his law school’s unprecedented spectacular climb towards the top. Instead of savoring these extraordinary accomplishments in his beloved Connecticut country retreat, however, Dorsen decided to go global! Besides launching I•CON and playing a key role in reinvigorating the IACL and in drawing numerous prominent American judges and scholars to transnational constitutionalism, Dorsen launched the NYU Global Law School Program and became the co-author of a leading casebook on Comparative Constitutionalism. I was privileged to witness Norman match his US success on the global scale throughout many years during which we shared many projects and a very special friendship that I have always greatly cherished. Because of his inexhaustible energy and innumerable successes, Norman Dorsen seemed often larger than life. But what was most remarkable about him was his exemplary humanity and pervasive sense of decency. *** Anthony D. Romero writes: “We can be confident that further surprises are in store, that the only certainty is that there cannot be certainty about the constitutional course of the country.” Norman Dorsen The Unpredictable Constitution That was quintessential Norm. Ever the skeptic. Answering a question with an even bigger, more far-reaching question. Like a walking oracle, he would analyze the here-and-now with references to the past. Embedded in his answers or positions was a lot of wisdom, and always a requisite amount of wiggle room should he have to change course—without ever reversing himself. Underlying that kinetic mind was a man of profound belief, commitment, passion and optimism. Norman served as the ACLU’s General Counsel from 1969–1976 and as President from 1976–1991. Under Norman Dorsen’s leadership, the ACLU expanded its mission to include not only traditional issues of due process and free speech, but also reproductive freedom, immigrants’ rights, and LGBT rights. Norman attributed his life-long passion for civil liberties to his early experience working on the Army-McCarthy hearings, where he observed first-hand the dangerous consequences of demagoguery, unfair process, and repression of speech. As a prominent constitutional law scholar, Norman persuaded the Supreme Court to extend due process protections to juvenile proceedings (In re Gault, 1967) and to recognize equal protection rights for non-marital children (Levy v. Louisiana, 1968). After becoming ACLU general counsel, he successfully argued the first abortion case to reach the Supreme Court (In re Vuitch, 1971). He believed in the power of ideas, but Norman also believed in the power of institutions. In addition to his contributions to the ACLU, in 1961 he founded NYU’s Arthur Garfield Hays Civil Liberties program, named for the ACLU’s esteemed co-founder and first general counsel. He directed and later codirected that program for over 50 years, training and mentoring generations of civil liberties lawyers. And now at the ACLU, we confer a biennial Norman Dorsen Presidential Prize upon an academic who, like Norman, has made lifetime contributions to civil liberties. Norman was not only a celebrated law professor, a constitutional advocate, and an institution builder—he was a dear friend and ally. He will be missed. *** Juliane Kokott writes: I first met Norman Dorsen in 1997 in the context of two conferences on comparative constitutional law: the May 1997 IACL Roundtable in Turku, Finland and the interdisciplinary conference on society building under the influence of fundamental rights, Bielefeld, April 1997. The idea for I•CON arose from the latter conference, which I organized with my associates Prof. Dr. Beate Rudolf, Director of the German Institute of Human Rights, and Dr. Leo Lee for the Alumni Association of the International Academy of Constitutional Law, Tunis. A representative of the Volkswagen-Foundation was enthusiastic about the outcome of that conference1 and suggested that his foundation could also fund a journal. Beate, Leo and myself then wrote the application for funding which the Foundation, however, rejected. This is when Norman Dorsen came in, fortunately. He immediately identified himself with the project and suggested that we translate the application from German into English in order to submit it to the NYU faculty. Further meetings with Norman (and Dean Sexton) followed at NYU and in London to find a publisher. From very early on, Norman also had in mind to involve Joseph Weiler in the Journal. At any time, it was a great pleasure to work together with Norman. He belonged to the few people who only solve problems, rather than creating, aggravating or simply ignoring them. He was very flexible and creative in finding new solutions to get I•CON started. Also, he was extremely responsive and uncomplicated. I knew him as a warm personality dedicated to the protection of human rights and justice and as someone making every effort and sparing no personal expenses when convinced of an idea. For example, he spontaneously decided, on short notice, to fly to Berlin in November 2005 to join the ECLN/IACL Roundtable on the Future of the European Judicial System2 organized by Ingolf Pernice and myself, simply because he found the topic interesting and important. We had another brief meeting in New York in autumn 2008, which unfortunately was the last time I met this great man. I am glad that I•CON is acknowledging Norman’s decisive impact and it is a pleasure for me to contribute. *** Burt Neuborne writes: Norman Dorsen devoted much of his remarkable career to the enhancement of individual freedom. But, unlike many libertarians who view the autonomous self as a freestanding island, two of Norman’s favorite poems were Robert Frost’s The Tuft of Flowers, and Mending Wall, each celebrating the miracle of working together to enhance our ability to work alone. Although he viewed religion very skeptically, Norman was fascinated by the story of the sixty-odd religious academics who, in the early 1600s, worked collectively, and often anonymously, to produce the King James version of the Bible.3 Norman saw their selfless collaboration as a parable of talented individuals working together to enhance the ability of others to find solace alone. More than any public figure of his generation, Norman Dorsen embodied that parable by playing critical, indeed irreplaceable, roles in the success of collective institutions devoted to the advancement of law as a protector of individual autonomy. Norman’s institutional masterwork was, and is, the American Civil Liberties Union, today an impressive collaboration of hundreds of thousands of fiercely individualistic volunteers who work together selflessly, often anonymously, with extraordinary success, to advance the autonomy and equality of millions of others. As its General Counsel, and then its President for 15 years, Norman brilliantly guided the ACLU into the modern era, using his formidable organizational and legal skills to help the ACLU evolve from a small, insular group of intellectuals centered in New York City to its present status as one of the premier institutions of American life. Norman’s role in the ascension of New York University School of Law to its present excellence is the second great example of his genius in parlaying the talents of numerous individuals into a collective institution dedicated to the enhancement of individual achievement. During his more than 50 years on the NYU Law faculty, Norman Dorsen was the school’s First Citizen, repeatedly shouldering often thankless governance burdens and performing them with careful judgment and scrupulous fairness. Most importantly, through his scholarship and teaching, Norman demonstrated that a collective commitment to intellectual excellence in the teaching and critique of law was, and is, compatible with a parallel commitment to the advancement of social justice. He fostered a collegial culture of intellectual excellence, mutual respect, common commitment, and social responsibility that remain NYU Law School’s most cherished attributes. Norman’s work, late in his career, as a founder of this important scholarly journal is yet a third example of his uncanny ability to harness collective action in aid of individual achievement—this time on an international scale. Norman saw himself as a citizen of a virtual Republique du Droit, a transnational land without borders, inhabited by lawyers, scholars, and judges committed to the rule of law as a protection of individual dignity.4 How fitting that one of Norman’s final institutional successes was to foster the creation and growth of I•CON, the house organ of the Republique de Droit, a scholarly journal dependent on the selfless collaborative actions of many talented volunteers devoted to the enhancement of personal autonomy, and individual dignity. Footnotes 1 Cf. Kokott/Rudolf (eds.), Gesellschaftsgestaltung unter dem Einfluss von Grund-und Menschenrechten, Beiträge zur interdisziplinären Tagung der Association des Audituers de l’Académie Internationale de Droit Constitutionnel, 2001. 2 Cf. Pernice/Kokott/Saunders, The Future of the European Judicial System in a Comparative Perspective, 6th International ECLN-Colloquium/IACL Round Table, Berlin 2005, 2006. 3 The story is beautifully told in Alan Nicolson, God’s Secretaries (2001). 4 I described Norman’s conception of the Republique du Droit in these pages in my Hommage a Louis Favoreu. If Louis Favoreu was its First Citizen, Norman Dorsen was its first Minister of Justice. © The Author(s) 2018. Oxford University Press and New York University School of Law. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
International Journal of Constitutional Law – Oxford University Press
Published: May 12, 2018
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