Norman Dorsen

Credit: Thomas F. Ferguson Norman Dorsen ’53 in his NYU office

Norman Dorsen ’53, president of the American Civil Liberties Union from 1976 to 1991, died on July 1. Active in many of the most prominent civil rights and civil liberties cases of the last 50 years, Dorsen regularly went against popular opinion to fight for fundamental freedoms.

A longtime professor at New York Law School of Law and director of its civil liberties program, Dorsen also taught at Harvard Law School as a visiting professor.

Harvard Law School Dean John Manning ’85 was a student of Dorsen’s at HLS in 1984, in the Legal Process course. “It was a thoroughly engaging and thought-provoking course that brought to life the question of institutional settlement in a constitutional democracy,” Manning recalls.

In 1993, Dorsen wrote a reflection for the Harvard Law Bulletin on challenges the ACLU faced as it upheld essential rights in a constitutional democracy: “Unless we want to dilute the First Amendment, controversial organizations cannot be prevented from demonstrating before unfriendly, even outraged, audiences,” he wrote.

Read Dorsen’s 1993 Bulletin article. See “A Lawyer for Nothing Less than Freedom,” a story about Dorsen in the 2014 Harvard Law Bulletin. Read Dorsen’s obituary in The New York Times.