Alan M. Dershowitz

Professor of Law, Emeritus

Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus

Biography

Professor Alan M. Dershowitz is Brooklyn native who has been called “the nation’s most peripatetic civil liberties lawyer” and one of its “most distinguished defenders of individual rights,” “the best-known criminal lawyer in the world,” “the top lawyer of last resort,” “America’s most public Jewish defender” and “Israel’s single most visible defender – the Jewish state’s lead attorney in the court of public opinion.” He is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School. Dershowitz, a graduate of Brooklyn College and Yale Law School, joined the Harvard Law School faculty at age 25 after clerking for Judge David Bazelon and Justice Arthur Goldberg.

He has also published more than 1000 articles in magazines, newspapers, journals and blogs such as The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Harvard Law Review, the Yale Law Journal, Huffington Post, Newsmax, Jerusalem Post and Ha’aretz. Professor Dershowitz is the author of 30 fiction and non-fiction works with a worldwide audience, including The New York Times #1 bestseller Chutzpah and five other national bestsellers. His autobiography, Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law, was published in October 2013 by Crown, a division of Random House. Earlier titles include “an exceptional, action packed book,” The Trials of Zion, a novel which has been called “a thought-provoking page turner;” Rights From Wrong; The Case For Israel; The Case For Peace; Blasphemy; Preemption; Finding Jefferson; and Shouting Fire.

In addition to his numerous law review articles and books about criminal and constitutional law, he has written, taught and lectured about history, philosophy, psychology, literature, mathematics, theology, music, sports – and even delicatessens.

His writing has been praised by Truman Capote, Saul Bellow, William Styron, David Mamet, Aharon Appelfeld, A.B. Yehoshua, Elie Wiesel, Richard North Patterson, and Henry Louis Gate, Jr. More than a million of his books—translated in many languages—have been sold worldwide.

In 1983, the Anti-Defamation League of the B'nai B'rith presented him with the William O. Douglas First Amendment Award for his "compassionate eloquent leadership and persistent advocacy in the struggle for civil and human rights." In presenting the award, Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel said: "If there had been a few people like Alan Dershowitz during the 1930s and 1940s, the history of European Jewry might have been different." Professor Dershowitz has been awarded the honorary doctor of laws degree by Yeshiva University, Brooklyn College, Syracuse University, Tel Aviv University, New York City College, Haifa University and several other institutions of learning. He has also been the recipient of numerous academic awards including a Guggenheim Fellowship for his work on human rights, a fellowship at The Center for The Advanced Study of Behavioral Sciences and several Dean’s Awards for his books.

He has been the subject of two New Yorker cartoons, a New York Times crossword puzzle, and a Trivial Pursuit question. A sandwich at Fenway Park has been named after him—pastrami, of course.

He is married to Carolyn Cohen, a PhD psychologist. He has three children, one a film producer, one a lawyer for the Women’s National Basketball Association and one a professional actor. He also has two grandchildren, one a college junior and the other a college freshman.

Areas of Interest

Alan M. Dershowitz, Abraham: The World’s First (But Certainly Not Last) Jewish Lawyer (Schocken Books 2015).
Categories:
Disciplinary Perspectives & Law
,
Legal Profession
Sub-Categories:
Jewish Law
,
Legal History
Type: Book
Abstract
"One of the world’s best-known attorneys gives us a no-holds-barred history of Jewish lawyers: from the biblical Abraham through modern-day advocates who have changed the world by challenging the status quo, defending the unpopular, contributing to the rule of law, and following the biblical command to pursue justice. The Hebrew Bible’s two great examples of advocacy on behalf of problematic defendants—Abraham trying to convince God not to destroy the people of Sodom, and Moses trying to convince God not to destroy the golden-calf-worshipping Children of Israel—established the template for Jewish lawyers for the next 4,500 years. Whether because throughout history Jews have found themselves unjustly accused of crimes ranging from deicide to ritual child murder to treason, or because the biblical exhortation that “justice, justice, shall you pursue” has been implanted in the Jewish psyche, Jewish lawyers have been at the forefront in battles against tyranny, in advocating for those denied due process, in negotiating for just and equitable solutions to complex legal problems, and in efforts to ensure a fair trial for anyone accused of a crime. Dershowitz profiles Jewish lawyers well-known and unheralded, admired and excoriated, victorious and defeated—and, of course, gives us some glimpses into the gung-ho practice of law, Dershowitz-style. Louis Brandeis, Theodor Herzl, Judah Benjamin, Max Hirschberg, René Cassin, Bruno Kreisky, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Irwin Cotler are just a few of the “idol smashers, advocates, collaborators, rescuers, and deal makers” who helped to change history. Dershowitz’s thoughts on the future of the Jewish lawyer are presented with the same insight, shrewdness, and candor that are the hallmarks of his more than four decades of writings on the law and how it is (and should be!) practiced." --Publisher
Alan M. Dershowitz, Finding, Framing, and Hanging Jefferson: A Lost Letter, a Remarkable Discovery, and Freedom of Speech in an Age of Terrorism (John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2008).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
Constitutional Law
Sub-Categories:
First Amendment
,
Biography & Tribute
,
Legal History
Type: Book
Abstract
The #1 New York Times bestselling author, Harvard Law School professor, and tireless defender of civil liberties unearths a little-known letter by his hero, Thomas Jefferson, and shares its secrets. The letter illuminates Jefferson’s views on freedom of speech in a way that has important implications for the country today, particularly in the struggle against terrorism. This book is about the remarkable letter Dershowitz found, how he found it, and why it matters not only to him, but to us today.
Alan M. Dershowitz, America on Trial: Inside the Legal Battles That Transformed Our Nation (Warner Books 2004).
Categories:
Legal Profession
,
Criminal Law & Procedure
,
Government & Politics
Sub-Categories:
Jury Trials
,
Courts
,
Judges & Jurisprudence
,
Supreme Court of the United States
,
Legal History
Type: Book
Abstract
The Boston Massacre. The Dred Scott decision. The Chicago Seven. O.J. Simpson. These are some of the trials that have both shaped and fascinated American society. Alan M. Dershowitz, who has been either a lawyer, consultant, or commentator on some of the most celebrated cases of the 1970s, 80s and 90s, highlights the trials he believes to be the most significant in our history, and discuses how they were central to the development of America's political and social structure.
Alan M. Dershowitz, Rights from Wrongs: A Secular Theory of the Origins of Rights (Basic Books 2004).
Categories:
Discrimination & Civil Rights
,
International, Foreign & Comparative Law
,
Environmental Law
,
Government & Politics
,
Constitutional Law
,
Disciplinary Perspectives & Law
Sub-Categories:
Religion
,
Constitutional History
,
Civil Rights
,
Religious Rights
,
Legal Theory & Philosophy
,
Animal Law
,
Politics & Political Theory
,
Human Rights Law
Type: Book
Abstract
Where do our rights come from Does "natural law" really exist outside of what is written in constitutions and legal statutes If so, why are rights not the same everywhere and in all eras On the other hand, if rights are nothing more than the product
Alan M. Dershowitz, Reasonable Doubts: The Criminal Justice System and the O.J. Simpson Case (Simon & Schuster 1997).
Categories:
Criminal Law & Procedure
Sub-Categories:
Criminal Evidence
,
Criminal Justice & Law Enforcement
,
Jury Trials
,
Criminal Defense
,
Criminal Prosecution
Type: Book
Abstract
One of America's leading appeal lawyers, Alan Dershowitz was the man chosen to prepare the appeal should O.J. Simpson have been convicted. Now Professor Dershowitz uses this case to examine the larger issues and to identify the social forces - media, money, gender, and race - that shape the criminal-justice system in America today. How could one of the longest trials in the history of America's judicial system produce a verdict after only hours of jury deliberation? Was this really a case of circumstantial evidence?