ACLU Inaugurates Dorsen Presidential Prize to Honor Outstanding Academic Contribution to Civil Liberties

May 31, 2013 12:27 pm

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Georgetown Professor David Cole Named First Recipient

May 31, 2013

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NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union has established a new award in honor of Norman Dorsen, former ACLU president and longtime director of the Arthur Garfield Hays Civil Liberties Program at New York University School of Law. The Dorsen Presidential Prize is to be presented biennially to a full-time academic for outstanding lifetime contributions to civil liberties. The award carries a $10,000 prize.

This is only the second award established by the ACLU in its 93 years. The first honors Roger N. Baldwin, the principal organizer of the ACLU from 1919 and 1920.

“Norman Dorsen has been unflinching in his determination to protect the civil liberties of all Americans in all circumstances, no matter what the popular stance at a given time,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. “This award was designed to honor his resolve and to reward and encourage those who share his commitment to protecting the freedoms guaranteed in our Constitution.”

Dorsen has fought for the constitutional rights of children, prisoners, war protesters, people of color, the LGBT community, and women throughout his 60-year career. In front of the Supreme Court, he has successfully argued cases that extended constitutional guarantees, including due process for juveniles and constitutional protections for children regardless of their parents’ marital status. He also brought one of the earliest challenges to discrimination against a gay man to the Supreme Court for review, and argued the court’s first abortion rights case. Dorsen has written briefs in the Gideon case, the Pentagon Papers case, Roe v. Wade, and the Nixon Tapes case.

President of the ACLU between 1976 and 1991, Dorsen has also served as founding president of the Society of American Law Teachers and president of the U.S. Association of Constitutional Law.

Dorsen has written or edited more than 16 books on constitutional law and civil liberties. He has also chaired the commission for the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. Among Dorsen’s many accolades, the French Minister of Justice awarded him a medal for his civil liberties work. President Bill Clinton presented him with the Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award, four issues of law reviews have honored him, and the Association of American Law Schools presented Dorsen in 2007 with its first triennial award for “lifetime contributions to the law and to legal education.”

“It is a great honor to have my name on this award,” said Dorsen. “What excites me most is that there is an ongoing determination, by the ACLU and by academics and lawyers throughout the country, to confront discrimination and other injustices that threaten our rights as provided in the Constitution.”

The ACLU will present the first award of the Dorsen Presidential Prize to Professor David Cole of Georgetown University Law Center. A renowned civil liberties scholar, Cole appears regularly on National Public Radio and in the Washington Post and The New York Times, and is the legal affairs correspondent for The Nation, The New York Review of Books, Slate, and Salon, among others. Cole is a volunteer attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights and is the author of seven books, including “Enemy Aliens: Double Standards and Constitutional Freedoms in the War on Terrorism” (New Press, 2005), which won the American Book Award; his 2007 book with Jules Lobel, “Less Safe, Less Free: The Failure of Preemption in the War on Terrorism” (New Press), was awarded the Palmer Civil Liberties Prize.

“Like Norman Dorsen, David Cole combines the best of scholarship and civil liberties activism,” said ACLU President Susan N. Herman. “He has both litigated and written insightfully about some of the nation’s most important national security cases and about threats to civil liberties in the age of the ‘War on Terror.’ These issues are critically important to the ACLU, as they concern the safeguarding of individual rights, our national commitment to principles of equality, our moral foundations, and the quality of our democracy.”

Cole was named by a selection committee chaired by ACLU President Herman, and included the following members: Deepak Bhargava, Diana Daniels, Geri Mannion, john powell, Judith Resnik, and David Shipler.

This committee was also responsible for selecting this year’s recipient of the Roger N. Baldwin Medal of Liberty to the United We Dream organization.

Both awards will be given at a special gala dinner at the ACLU Biennial Leadership Conference in Detroit, Mich., on June 8. The gala will be attended by board leaders and executive directors from the ACLU national office and each of the 53 ACLU affiliates from across the country.

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