Thomas I. Emerson

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Thomas I. Emerson
Professor Emeritus
Born Thomas Irwin Emerson
(1907-07-12)July 12, 1907
Passaic, New Jersey
Died Script error: The function "death_date_and_age" does not exist.
New Haven, Connecticut
Nationality American
Occupation lawyer, professor of law
Years active 1931–1991
Known for Sweezy v. New Hampshire and Watkins v. United States (1957), Griswold v. Connecticut (1965)
Board member of National Lawyers Guild
Awards Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty
Academic background
Education Yale University
Alma mater Yale Law School
Academic work
Notable works Political and Civil Rights in the United States (1952)

Thomas I. Emerson (1907–1991) was a 20th-century American attorney and professor of law. He is known as a "major architect of civil liberties law,"[1] "arguably the foremost First Amendment scholar of his generation,"[2] and "pillar of the Bill of Rights."[3][4][5][6][7][8]

Background

Thomas Irwin Emerson was born in 1907 in Passaic, New Jersey. In 1928, he graduated from Yale University. In 1931, he graduated from Yale Law School, where future Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas was his professor.[1][2][7][8][9]

Career

Private practice

In 1931, Emerson joined Engelhard, Pollak, Pitcher & Stern (earlier Simpson, Warren & Cardozo and later Engelhard, Pollak, Pitcher, Stern & Clarke). Emerson worked primarily for Carl Stern and Walter Pollak.[3] Colleagues there included Arthur H. Goldberg. With law firm colleague Walter Pollak served the defense team that helped appeal convictions of the "Scottsboro Boys" in Powell v. Alabama (1932).[1][2][3][6][7][8]

Public service

In July 1933,[8] Emerson joined the New Deal of US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt by serving at the National Recovery Administration (NRA), the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the Social Security Board (1936[8]), back to the NLRB in the summer of 1937, becoming assistant general counsel in charge of their review section in November 1937 and associated general counsel in August 1939.[8] He then joined the US Department of Justice. During World War II, he served as general counsel at the Office of Economic Stabilization and the Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion.[2][3][4][7]

Academic

In 1946, Emerson returned to Yale as a professor of law, and taught there for more than three decades.[1][2][3] Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Robert Reich, and Clarence Thomas were among some of his students.[10][11]

Politics

In 1948, Emerson ran for governor of Connecticut on the ticket of the 1948 Progressive Party, whose US presidential candidate was former US Vice President Henry A. Wallace.[5][12][13] He was also Connecticut state chairman of the Progressive Party.[14] In 1950, UN Ambassador Aleš Bebler planned to invite Henry A Wallace and Thomas I. Emerson to his country Yugoslavia.[15]

Major cases

Emerson's successful argument before the United States Supreme Court include:

During the 1960s, Emerson supported efforts to secure the release of Morton Sobell, convicted in 1951 of espionage as part of the case of Julius Rosenberg and Ethel Rosenberg.[7]

Associations

Emerson was a member of the National Lawyers Guild and served as its national president (1950–1951).[2][3] He refused to quit the organization when president, despite its labeling at a Communist front.[4] Previously, he was a member of the International Juridical Association (IJA).[16]

Emerson was also a member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), in which he was active,[3][5] as well as the New Haven Civil Liberties Council (later Connecticut Civil Liberties Union).[7] He also co-founded the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee (ECLC).[7][13] He joined the National Committee to Abolish the House Un-American Activities Committee and also the National Committee Against Repressive Legislation; he opposed the Federal Loyalty Program of US President Harry S. Truman.[7] His support for civil liberties led the Federal Bureau of Investigation to keep a file on him from 1941 to 1977.[4][7]

Congressional testimony

On February 28, 1940, Emerson testified with other members of the NLRB, his case with regard to "the present state of the Board's docket, as far as concerns the question of delay in the issuance of Board decisions."[8]

On April 4, 1950, Emerson appeared bore HUAC as a representative of the 1948 Progressive Party.[6]

In 1953, Emerson was mentioned in hearings of a House Select Committee to Investigate Tax-exempt Foundations and Comparable Organizations. The proceedings note allegedly subversive activities:

Personal life and death

Emerson married Bertha Paret, with whom he had three children. He remarried Ruth Calvin.[7]

Thomas I. Emerson died age 83 on June 19, 1991, of a stroke at the Yale Health Services Center in New Haven.[1][4][7]

Awards

Works

When Political and Civil Rights in the United States was published (during the McCarthy Era, renowned American education philosopher Robert Maynard Hutchins wrote, "This is the only comprehensive collection of cases and materials on the most important subject in the world today."[3] The book foreshadowed the decision on Brown v. Board of Education (1952).[3] In 2019, when co-author David Haber died, Rutgers University's Peter Simons, former dean of the law school there, stated: "David and Thomas I. Emerson produced the first casebook on civil rights and liberties, thus promoting a new field of study in law schools. That book has remained in use, updated and revised by Norman Dorsen and other scholars from NYU. ."[18]

Works at the Library of Congress and cited in current references to this entry:

  • "What is the I.J.A.?" (undated)[16]
  • "Loyalty Among Government Employees," Yale Law Journal with David M. Helfeld (1948)[5][19]
  • Political and Civil Rights in the United States with David Haber (1952)[3][7][20]
  • Toward a GeneralTheory of the First Amendment (1966)[3][21]
  • "Freedom of Expression in Wartime" (1968)[5][22]
  • A System of Freedom of Expression (1970)[3][5][23]
  • The Bill of Rights Today (1970)[24]
  • "Freedom of the Press under the Burger Court" (1983)[5]
  • Young Lawyer for the New Deal: An Insider’s Memoir of the Roosevelt Years (1991)[5][7][25]

(See "Thomas I. Emerson: Pillar of the Bill of Rights" for full bibliography.[3])

See also

References

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  9. William O. Douglas, Go East, Young Man: The Early Year (New York: Random House, 1974). p. 173
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External sources