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Norman Dorsen
Dorsen in 2007
Born (1930-09-04)September 4, 1930
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
Died July 1, 2017(2017-07-01) (aged 86)
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
Alma mater Columbia University
Harvard Law School

Norman Dorsen (September 4, 1930 – July 1, 2017) was the Frederick I. and Grace A. Stokes Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Arthur Garfield Hays Civil Liberties Program at the New York University School of Law, where he specialized in Constitutional Law, Civil Liberties, and Comparative Constitutional Law.[1][2] Previously, he was president of the American Civil Liberties Union, 1976–1991.[3] He was also president of the Society of American Law Teachers, 1972–1973, and president of the U.S. Association of Constitutional Law in 2000.

Dorsen successfully argued the case of In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1 (1967), before the U.S. Supreme Court which held that juveniles accused of crimes in a delinquency proceeding must be afforded many of the same due process rights as adults.[4]

He argued Supreme Court cases Levy v. Louisiana (1968), ensuring equal protection for out-of-wedlock children, and United States v. Vuitch (1971), the first abortion case to reach the Court.[5]

Dorsen sat on the Council on Foreign Relations, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[6]


A 1953 graduate of Harvard Law School, Dorsen performed military service in the office of the Secretary of the Army fighting against McCarthyism in the Army-McCarthy Hearings. Dorsen clerked for Chief Judge Calvert Magruder of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit and then Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan II in the 1957 Term.[3][7][8]


Dorsen authored numerous books, including Comparative Constitutionalism (2003 ISBN 0-314-24248-1), Our Endangered Rights (1984 ISBN 0-394-72229-9), and Frontiers of Civil Liberties (1968). His papers related to multiple aspects of the American civil liberties movement from the 1950s to the 1980s are housed in the Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University.


Among other honors, he received the Medal of Liberty from the French Minister of Justice in 1983 and the Eleanor Roosevelt Medal for contributions to human rights from Bill Clinton in 2000.[9][10][11] In 2007, the Association of American Law Schools presented him with its first triennial award for "lifetime contributions to the law and to legal education."[12]

In 2013, the ACLU established a new award in Norman Dorsen's honor, the Dorsen Presidential Prize, to be "presented bienially to a full-time academic for outstanding lifetime contributions to civil liberties."[13]

Personal life

Dorsen met his future wife, Harriette Koffler, at NYU and the two were wed in 1965. She died in 2011. They had three daughters, Jennifer Dorsen (an educator in Boston, MA), Caroline Dorsen (a professor at NYU) and Annie Dorsen (a writer and director).[14] Dorsen owned a home in Cornwall, Connecticut.[15]


Dorsen died at his Manhattan home on July 1, 2017, at age 86, of complications from a stroke.[14]


  1. Calder, Rich (November 6, 2013). "Judge tossed from 'stop-and-frisk' wants day in court". New York Post. Retrieved July 3, 2017. 
  2. "Naomi Slaps the Peta-Bred Vigilantes". New York Post. August 27, 2000. Retrieved July 3, 2017. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Savage, David G. (January 11, 2015). "Supreme Court faced gay rights decision in 1958 over 'obscene' magazine". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved July 3, 2017. 
  4. In re Gault. Oyez Website. IIT Chicago-Kent School of Law; retrieved March 15, 2017.
  5. "Timeline of Important Reproductive Freedom Cases Decided by the Supreme Court". ACLU. Retrieved July 2, 2017. 
  6. Entry for "Dorsen, N.", membership list, American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved March 7, 2017.
  7. Jacobs, Valerie Seiling (Spring 2013). "A Passion for Civil Liberties," Alumni News, Profile,; accessed July 2, 2017.
  8. Urofsky, Melvin I., ed. Biographical Encyclopedia of the Supreme Court: The Lives and Legal Philosophies of the Justices. 2006: CQ Press. p. xi. ISBN 1452267286. "Contributors: Norman Dorsen" 
  9. Europa Publications, ed (2004). The International Who's Who 2004. Psychology Press. p. 449. ISBN 1857432177. Retrieved July 3, 2017. 
  10. "Human Rights Day: The Eleanor Roosevelt Award and The Presidential Medal of Freedom". The White House. December 6, 2000. Retrieved July 3, 2017. 
  11. "William Clinton: Remarks on Presenting the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights and the Presidential Medal of Freedom". The White House. December 6, 2000. Retrieved July 3, 2017. 
  12. "AALS Triennial Award". AALS. August 2015. Retrieved July 2, 2017. 
  13. "Press release: ACLU Inaugurates Dorsen Presidential Prize to Honor Outstanding Academic Contribution to Civil Liberties". ACLU. May 31, 2013. Retrieved July 2, 2017. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 Norman Dorsen, Tenacious Civil Rights Advocate, Dies at 86,; accessed July 2, 2017.
  15. "Democratic Congressional hopefuls to gather for forum in Cornwall April 21". New Haven Register. April 6, 2012. Retrieved July 3, 2017. 

External links

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