Wechsler, Herbert, 1909-2000

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Law professor.

From the description of Reminiscences of Herbert Wechsler : oral history, 1982. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 309735556

Born in 1909, Herbert Wechsler entered the City College of New York at 16 and later attended Columbia Law School where he was editor-in-chief of the Law Review. Wechsler graduated at the top of his class in 1931 and went on to serve as a clerk for Supreme Court Justice Harlan F. Stone. After working for Justice Stone, Wechsler returned to Columbia Law School to teach courses in federal jurisdiction and criminal law. During this time Wechsler would collaborate with his colleague Jerome Michael, a partnership that yielded the casebook Criminal Law and Its Administration.

Wechsler’s one leave of absence from teaching began in 1940 when he started working in Washington for the Department of Justice, first serving in the Solicitor General’s office (1940-1941) and then as Executive Secretary of the Board of Legal Examiners (1941-1942). While working for the Department of Justice, Wechsler formed a personal relationship with Attorney General Francis Biddle, who eventually asked Wechsler to become Assistant Attorney General in charge of the War Division dealing with issues arising from World War II. One of the more notable issues Wechsler had to deal with in this position was reviewing the appellate arguments on behalf of the United States in favor of its internment policy for the case Korematsu v. The United States (1944). When Francis Biddle was appointed as the American Judge for the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, Wechsler was asked to assist in the Justice Department’s preparations for the Tribunals and he eventually worked in Germany as the Principal Technical Adviser to the American judges.

In the years following the war Wechsler returned to teach at Columbia and took on a joint class with Henry Hart on the Federal Courts. The class became the impetus behind a casebook by the two, Hart and Wechsler’s The Federal Courts and the Federal System, which became a lauded book in the field and has gone through several editions. While at Columbia Wechsler also worked publicly, serving at the request of New York City Mayor William O’Dwyer as a member of the New York City Rent Commission and as a general adviser on the problems of rent control. Wechsler also worked for New York State on its Temporary Committee for Revision of the Penal Law and Criminal Code.

In 1952 Wechsler began his work as Chief Reporter on The Model Penal Code (MPC) for the American Law Institute (ALI), completing it a decade later. The MPC has since been used as a guide for most state legislatures and has helped in the standardization of codified penal laws in the United States. The same year Wechsler finished the MPC (1962) he was appointed as Director of the ALI. As Director, Wechsler presided over the creation of many studies and models produced by the institute including the Corporate Governance Project, the Second Restatement of Torts, and a Model Code of Pre-Arraignment.

In addition to teaching at Columbia and working with the American Law Institute, Wechsler worked as a private practitioner, with his most notable case being New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964). Wechsler successfully represented the New York Times as petitioner against the pursuit of a libel action by L.B. Sullivan, a city commissioner in charge of police in Montgomery, Alabama. The Supreme Court overturned the earlier judgment for Sullivan, convinced by Wechsler’s arguments that the standard of libel for public officials and their conduct must come from statements made with actual malice as opposed to negligence. Wechsler also produced many speeches, articles, and books, including most notably his Oliver Wendell Holmes Lecture (and Harvard Law Review article) “Toward Neutral Principles of Constitutional Law,” written in 1959. Wechsler argued that judicial decisions must rest on reason and analysis (rather than concern for what immediate result might be reached from a ruling) and described “Neutral Principles” that could be applied. Using these "standards of neutrality" Wechsler criticized several Supreme Court decisions including Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, generating controversy within the world of law scholars as well as without when portions of the lecture were re-published in U.S. News And World Report .

Herbert Wechsler died in April of 2000 in New York City, lauded as a “Legal Giant” by the New York Times and eulogized by many legal scholars and judges in the field including his one-time student Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He was survived by his wife Doris and sister-in-law, Nancy Wechsler.

Sources:

Dillard, Hardy Cross, "Herbert Wechsler," Columbia Law Review, Vol. 78, No. 5 (Jun., 1978), pp. 953-956.

"Herbert Wechsler, Legal Giant, Is Dead at 90." >The New York Times, 28 Apr. 2000. Stable URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2000/04/28/us/herbert-wechsler-legal-giant-is-dead-at-90.html

Shapiro, David L., "Herbert Wechsler--A Remembrance," Columbia Law Review, Vol. 100, No. 6 (Oct., 2000), pp. 1377-1383.

From the guide to the Herbert Wechsler papers, 1919-2000, [Bulk Dates: 1932-1995], (Columbia University. Rare Book and Manuscript Library)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Kaufman, Andrew L. Andrew L. Kaufman Research Notes and Materials for the Biography of Benjamin Cardozo. 1898-1998. Harvard Law School Library, Harvard University.
creatorOf Jones, Harry Le Roy, 1895-1986. Papers, 1917-1975, bulk 1934-1966. University of Virginia, Arthur J. Morris Law Library
creatorOf Wechsler, Herbert, 1909-2000. Correspondence with Johan Thorsten Sellin, 1954-1963. University of Pennsylvania Library
referencedIn Legal Profession in Indiana, 1976-1980 Indiana University, Bloomington. Center for the Study of History and Memory
creatorOf Jones, Harry Le Roy, 1895-1986. Papers, 1917-1975, bulk 1934-1966. University of Virginia, Arthur J. Morris Law Library
referencedIn Homer D. Crotty papers and addenda, 1859-2011 The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens Manuscripts Department
referencedIn Glueck, Sheldon, 1896-1980. Papers of Sheldon Glueck, 1916-1972 (inclusive). Harvard Law School Library, HLS Library
referencedIn Glueck, Sheldon, 1896-1990. Papers, 1916-1972 Harvard Law School Library, Harvard University.
creatorOf Records of Temporary Committees, Commissions, and Boards. 1893 - 2008. Commission Records
referencedIn Fuller, Lon L. Lon L. Fuller papers. 1926-1977. Harvard Law School Library, Harvard University.
referencedIn Richard H. Field papers, 1942-1978 Harvard Law School Library, HLS Library
referencedIn Kluger, Richard. Brown vs. Board of Education collection, 1950-1975 (inclusive). Yale University Library
referencedIn Jerome New Frank papers, 1918-1972 (bulk 1929-1957) Yale University. Department of Manuscripts and Archives
referencedIn University of Virginia. Sesquicentennial Committee. Files of the University of Virginia Sesquicentennial Committee [manuscript], 1968-1970. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Weill, Kurt, 1900-1950. General correspondence, [ca. 1925]-1950. Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn Freund, Paul A. Paul A. Freund papers. 1918-1993. Harvard Law School Library, Harvard University.
referencedIn Kluger, Richard. Brown vs. Board of Education collection, 1950-1975 (inclusive). Yale University Library
creatorOf Wechsler, Herbert, 1909-2000. Reminiscences of Herbert Wechsler : oral history, 1982. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Historical Biographical Files, [18--?] - 2012. Columbia University. University Archives. Rare Book and Manuscript Library
creatorOf Glueck, Sheldon, 1896-1980. Papers, 1916-1972. Harvard Law School Library, HLS Library
referencedIn Jerome New Frank papers, 1918-1972 (bulk 1929-1957) Yale University Library
referencedIn Howe, Mark De Wolfe. Mark De Wolfe Howe papers. 1933-1967. Harvard Law School Library, Harvard University.
referencedIn Hand, Learned, 1872-1961. Papers, 1840-1961 Harvard Law School Library, Harvard University.
creatorOf Dure, Leon Sebring, 1907-. Papers of Leon Sebring Dure [manuscript], 1957-1970. University of Virginia. Library
referencedIn Field, Richard Hinkley, 1903-1978. Papers of Richard Hinkley Field, 1932-1978 (inclusive), 1942-1978 (bulk). Harvard Law School Library, HLS Library
referencedIn Hart, Henry Melvin, 1904-1969. Papers, 1927-1969 Harvard Law School Library, Harvard University.
referencedIn Hastie, William. William Hastie papers. 1916-1976. Harvard Law School Library, Harvard University.
referencedIn Francis Biddle Collection of International Military Tribunal Nuremberg Trial Documents and Related Material, 1928-1960, 1945-1946 Syracuse University. Library. Special Collections Research Center
referencedIn James Vorenberg papers, 1965-1979 Harvard Law School Library, Harvard University.
creatorOf American Law Institute. Correspondence with Johan Thorsten Sellin, 1934-1960. University of Pennsylvania Library
creatorOf Herbert Wechsler papers, 1919-2000, [Bulk Dates: 1932-1995] Columbia University. Rare Book and Manuscript Library,
referencedIn Oral Histories, 1989-1993 University of Pennsylvania: Biddle Law Library: American Law Institute Archives
referencedIn Scott, Austin Wakeman. Austin Wakeman Scott papers. 1906-1979. Harvard Law School Library, Harvard University.
referencedIn Kaufman, Andrew L. Andrew L. Kaufman Research Notes and Materials for the Biography of Benjamin Cardozo. 1898-1998. Harvard Law School Library, Harvard University.
referencedIn Frank, Jerome, 1889-1957. Jerome New Frank papers, 1918-1972 (inclusive), 1929-1957 (bulk). Yale University Library
referencedIn Berger, Raoul. Raoul Berger Papers. 1921-2000. Harvard Law School Library, Harvard University.
referencedIn Biddle, Francis, 1886-1968. Francis B. Biddle papers, 1912-1968 (bulk 1940-1966). Georgetown University, Joseph Mark Lauinger Memorial Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith American Bar Association. corporateBody
associatedWith American Law Institute corporateBody
associatedWith American Law Institute. corporateBody
associatedWith Berger, Raoul, 1901- person
correspondedWith Biddle, Francis, 1886-1968. person
associatedWith Columbian University. Law School. corporateBody
associatedWith Columbia University. Law School. corporateBody
associatedWith Columbia University. University Archives. corporateBody
associatedWith Crotty, Homer D. person
associatedWith Dure, Leon Sebring, 1907- person
associatedWith Field, Richard Hinkley, 1903-1978. person
associatedWith Frankfurter, Felix, 1882-1965 person
associatedWith Frank, Jerome, 1889-1957. person
associatedWith Fuller, Lon L., 1902- person
associatedWith Glueck, Sheldon, 1896-1980. person
correspondedWith Hand, Learned, 1872-1961 person
correspondedWith Hart, Henry Melvin. person
associatedWith Hastie, William. person
correspondedWith Howe, Mark De Wolfe, 1906-1967 person
associatedWith Indiana University Center for the Study of History and Memory corporateBody
associatedWith Jones, Harry Le Roy, 1895-1986. person
associatedWith Kaufman, Andrew L. person
associatedWith Kluger, Richard. person
associatedWith Kluger, Richard. person
associatedWith Miller, Geoffrey, person
associatedWith New York City Rent Guidelines Board. corporateBody
associatedWith New York (State). corporateBody
associatedWith Paul A. Freund person
associatedWith Radzinowicz, Leon, Sir. person
associatedWith Scott, Austin Wakeman, 1884-1981 person
associatedWith Silber, Norman Isaac, person
associatedWith Stone, Harlan Fiske, 1872-1946 person
associatedWith Taylor, Telford. person
associatedWith United States. Dept. of Justice. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Dept. of Justice. United States Supreme Court. corporateBody
associatedWith United States. Supreme Court. corporateBody
associatedWith University of Virginia. Sesquicentennial Committee. corporateBody
associatedWith Vorenberg, James. person
associatedWith Weill, Kurt, 1900-1950. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States
New York (State)
Subject
Government executives--Interviews
Law teachers--Interviews
War crime trials--Germany (West)--Nuremberg
Japanese Americans--Evacuation and relocation, 1942-1945
Law--Study and teaching
Criminal law
Libel and slander United States Cases
Model Penal Code
Student movements--1960-1970
Nuremberg War Crime Trials, Nuremberg, Germany, 1946-1949
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1909-12-04

Death 2000-04-26

English

Information

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Ark ID: w6960338

SNAC ID: 956575