Twenty unbroken years of Democratic control of the presidency (1932-52), followed by eight years of moderate Republican control (1952-60), and the eight Kennedy/Johnson years (1960-68) had salted the federal judiciary from top to bottom with a brilliant array of judges open to novel civil liberties arguments. The civil rights and anti-Vietnam movements provided day-to-day examples of the power of mass demonstrations. Baker v. Carr, a seminal case on redistricting, had signaled the Supreme Court’s readiness to rewrite the law of democracy. The ACLU itself was evolving from a small group of elite volunteers meeting in cramped quarters on the upper west side of Manhattan into a nationwide force for the enforcement of the Constitution.
The legal staff at the NYCLU back then included Paul Chevigny, fresh from establishing one of the nation’s first Legal Services offices in Harlem; Alan Levine, a passionate innovator unafraid to launch new arguments in defense of the weak; Bruce Ennis, the lawyer who forced the closing of Dickensian mental institutions, like the notorious Willowbrook State School; Eve Cary, a ground-breaking feminist lawyer who began at the NYCLU as a secretary and ended as one of our most beloved leaders; Art Eisenberg, who joined us after escaping from a graduate program in history; and me, liberated from three years as a Wall Street tax lawyer. Aryeh Neier, as executive director, and Ira Glasser, as associate director, filled out the extraordinary staff.