Bazelon, David L. (David Lionel), 1909-

Alternative names
Birth 1909-09-03
Death 1993-02-19

Biographical notes:

David L. Bazelon, born in Superior, Wisconsin in 1909 to Russian, Jewish immigrants, was the first person in his family to graduate from college. After he studied law at Northwestern Law School he briefly entered private practice. In 1936 he joined the US Attorney's Office in Chicago, where he handled civil tax cases brought against some of the city's most notorious gansters. In 1940 he returned to private practice where he became the youngest senior partner in the firm of Gotlieb and Schwartz. He left in 1946 to join the United States Justice Dept. as Assistant Attorney General in charge of Land Division. In 1949 President Truman created fifteen new federal judgeships. Bazelon was appointed to fill the one in the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. He was forty years old. He served from 1949 to 1984, and from 1962 to 1978 he was the Chief Justice. During these years Bazelon's court was considered the "second highest" in the nation, largely because of its location.Bazelon and his liberal colleagues on the court set the tone for the court's rulings. Through the sixties most of the decisions from the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals which were appealed to the Supreme Court were affirmed. By the seventies, however, both Bazelon and his colleagues found themselves out of fashion. Judge Bazelon was most interested in the relationship of science to law, and the rights of defendants, children, and those committed to mental institutions. He was on the faculty of the Department of Psychiatry of George Washington University, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and a regular lecturer at Johns Hopkins University. His speeches often stirred up controversy as he was an activist both on the bench and off. In the mid 1980s Judge Bazelon retired. He died on February 19, 1993, of Alzheimer's disease.

From the description of David L. Bazelon papers. (University of Pennsylvania Law Library). WorldCat record id: 223855102

Chief justice of the United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia Circuit).

From the description of Correspondence from Johan Thorsten Sellin, 1968. (University of Pennsylvania Library). WorldCat record id: 234989040


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Ark ID:


  • Mental health laws
  • Legal assistance to children
  • Insanity (Law)
  • Confession (Law)
  • Science and law
  • Legal aid
  • Police questioning
  • DDT (Insecticide)--Environmental aspects
  • Children--Legal status, laws, etc
  • Legal assistance to the poor
  • Legal assistance to people with mental disabilities
  • Right to counsel
  • Political questions and judicial power


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  • United States (as recorded)