A Life in Law and Politics


General Counsel of the ACLU

Published by Humanities Press, 1997 (Distributed by Prometheus Books, Amherst, N.Y.)

Table of Contents

DEFENDING RIGHTS describes the contemporary struggle for political and civil rights in the United States from the perspective of Frank Askin, General Counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union. It is a book that goes to the core of every American's basic concern - what is big government doing and are they doing it for us? It is a book about law and lawyers, and what one has to do with the other. It is also about politics and how individuals influence the establishment of public policy.

Frank Askin has been in the forefront of legal struggles to expand individual rights for thirty years and has been General Counsel of the ACLU for over twenty. A Distinguished Professor at Rutgers Law School, in 1970 he founded Rutgers' pioneering Constitutional Litigation Clinic, where he has trained a new generation of public interest lawyers. He has interspersed his activities in the courtroom and classroom with several stints on Capitol Hill as special counsel to congressional committees and has run for Congress twice.

Congressman John Conyers, Jr., Former Chairman of the House Government Operation Committee states, "DEFENDING RIGHTS tells a compelling story of day-to-day work by dedicated lawyers to protect and defend constitutional rights, both in the courtroom and in the legislative arena. This book belies the adage that people who love law and sausages should never watch either of them being made. Frank Askin provides an inside view of the law-making process that is fascinating and eminently readable."

Fred Feinstein, General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board states, "Askin has written a lively and illuminating account of his hands-on participation in some of the more intriguing legal battles of our time. In particular, his behind-the-scenes recollection of perhaps the most important recent effort to reform labor law, sheds new light on an event that nearly twenty years later continues to shape labor policy."

Professor Askin provides a panoramic view of the struggles between Left and Right over public law and policy in the post-war era. Written in a personal style which will captivate students from high school through graduate school, the book provides lively and often humorous perspectivn the McCarthy era, the civil rights movement, the anti-war and anti-nuke campaigns, the clash between police and counterculture, the war between labor and management, the fight for free speech and many other struggles of the Cold War era. And it takes the student right into the middle of the courtrooms and legislative arenas where many of these public controversies wound up.


Reflections on Life as a Constitutional Lawyer

Read My Blog

Monument to Participants in 1948 Baltimore Tennis Court Sit-In led by Stanley Askin

Recent Commentaries by Frank Askin on Contemporary Issues of Law and Politics

"Frank Askin: Happy birthday, J. Edgar Hoover. Thanks for keeping an eye on me";(WP Washington Post 01/04/16)

"One Person, One Vote?";(New Jersey Law Journal 12/28/15)

"How ruling in Menendez case may affect political corruption cases moving forward";(Star Ledger 08/09/15)

"Voting rights become a proxy war in the 2016 presidential election";(The Conversation(07/08/15)

"On voter fraud, Christie keeps talking through his hat";(Star Ledger ( 6/15/15)

"Protecting the Right to Vote on Election Day";(21 Clinical L. Rev. 204 (2014-2015)

"N.J. Supreme Court: Condos cannot restrict free speech";(Star Ledger ( 12/11/14)

"Opinion: The absurdity of high court’s health care ruling";( (Bergen Record) 7/28/14)

"The Supreme Court's winners and losers: Opinion";(Star Ledger ( 7/8/14)

"In Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby ruling, whose rights are being denied?: Opinion.pdf";(Star Ledger ( 7/2/14)

"Opinion: Dropping the second shoe on election spending.pdf";(Bergen Record) 4/2/14)

"Expanding Voter Participation in New Jersey.pdf";(286 New Jersey Lawyer Magazine 5) February 2014)

"Opinion_ ‘Right to travel’ could be invoked in GWB lawsuits.pdf";( (Bergen Record) 1/15/14)

"In real life and on film, who's hustling whom?: Opinion.pdf";(Star Ledger ( 1/12/14)

"You can't take Baltimore out of the boy [Commentary]: One professor's ode to Charm City.pdf";( 12/25/13)

"The spies who never came in from the cold: Opinion.pdf";(Star Ledger ( 12/08/13)

"Why Only Justice Ginsburg Got Affirmative Action Case Right.pdf";(New Jersey Law Journal 7/15/13)

"Time to provide a right to vote_ Opinion.pdf";(Star Ledger ( 6/30/13)

"Why Christie Chose Door No. 3.pdf";(New Jersey Law Journal 6/5/13)

"Tempest in the tea (party) pot: Opinion";( (Star Ledger 5/26/13)

"Looking at the Law Through Eye of the Beholder";(New Jersey Law Journal 5/21/13)

"Peculiar View of Second Amendment Can Be Linked to Scalia";(New Jersey Law Journal 2/25/13)

"Robert Bork earned his rejection?";(The Record 12/30/12)

"Trends aren"t pointing GOP's way?";( (Star Ledger 11/20/12)

"Was the Case Really About Pensions or Judicial Independence?";(New Jersey Law Journal 7/30/12)

"Opinion: A health care ruling with something for everyone";( (The Record) 7/5/12)

"Occupy" your own home: A victory for free speech in New Jersey";( (Star Ledger) 7/1/12)

"And Now a Few Words from My Son Jonathan:";(The Huffington Post 6/14/12)

"Deciphering super PAC double-speak";( (Star Ledger) 5/27/12)

"Chilling effect: Can N.J. Muslims (or anyone) challenge NYPD, other police in court?";( (Star Ledger) published 4/8/12; updated 4/9/12)

"Montana Supreme Court throws down gauntlet in Citizens United decision";( (Star Ledger) 3/9/12)

"States Rightists Have Met the Enemy, and It Is Them";(The New Jersey Law Journal 2/16/12)

"Opinion: [ROE V. WADE] Still a hot button after all these years";( 1/20/12)

"Askin: Changing the rules of campaign finance";(The Star Ledger 1/20/12)

"Is strip searching inmate arrested for petty offense a Fourth Amendment violation?";(The Star Ledger 9/18/11)

"The trouble that citizens united wrought";(The New Jersey Law Journal 9/1/11)

"New privacy guidelines would give FBI leeway to abuse privacy";(The Star Ledger 7/24/11)

"Speech is free only to those who can afford it";(The Star Ledger 7/1/11)

"N.J. voters need to be able to register at polls.pdf";(Jointly authored by Yael Bromberg in the Star Ledger 6/7/11)

"Advance Voter Registration: Is It Obsolete?.pdf";(Jointly authored by Yael Bromberg in the New Jersey Law Journal 5/6/11)

"What if Christie defied court on school funding?.pdf";(The Asbury Park Press 5/6/11)

"Working to stack the deck for 2012 presidential election.pdf";(The Star-Ledger 3/23/11)

"It's Deja Vu All Over Again for Rutgers' Legal Clinics.pdf";(The New Jersey Law Journal 11/17/10)

"Attack on organized labor is nothing new";(The Star-Ledger 3/11/11)

"The Illogic of the Top Court's Chicago Gun-Rights Decision";(The New Jersey Law Journal 7/14/10)

"Stop trying to roll back the Mount Laurel affordable housing doctrine";(The Star-Ledger 5/28/10)

"Supreme Court justice choice";(The Star-Ledger 4/15/10)

"Health care reform should survive legal challenges";(The Star-Ledger 3/26/10)

"Filibuster: It's time for majority rule in the Senate";(NJ.Com 2/11/10)

"Askin: Changing the rules of campaign finance";(North Jersey.Com 1/31/10)

"N.J.Supreme COurt Protects SLAPPers";(196.N.J.L.J.827 6/22/09)

"Askin: The high court and the costs of free speech";( 5/11/09)

"Free choice or no choice for U.S. workers";(The Star-Ledger 3/20/09)

"An Electoral Reform Worth Considering";(195 N.J.L.J. 811 3/16/09)

"Who's 'playing politics' with the census?"; (The Star-Ledger 3/3/09)

"Frivolous lawsuits: SLAPPing the lawyer right back?";(The NJ ESQ 3/2/09)

"For oil gaint, a $500 million recusal?" (The Record (Hackensack), July 28, 2008)

"Disfranchising Felons." (Printed at 59 Rutgers Law Review 875, Spring 2008)

"A Government Divided." (Printed in The Record, 8/6/07)

"Congress's Power to Compel." (Printed in The Washington Post, Page A13, 7/21/07)

Supreme Court Sets Back Constitution 70 Years with Re-Segregation Decision." (Printed in The Record, Opinion Page, 7/5/07)

"Barred From the Ballot Box: Rehnquist's legacy still haunts those who finish their prison sentence yet still can't vote" (Printed in 30 Legal Times, No.9, 2/26/07)

"Key Free Speech Case: Twin Rivers" (Printed in The Record, Opinion Page, 1/3/07)

"Twin Rivers: Bringing the NJ Constitution to Communities" (Printed in New Jersey Lawyer Magazine, Symposium on Homeowners Associations, Oct. 2006)

"Secret Justice" (Reprinted from the American Prospect)

"Zazzali Watchdog for the Little Guys" (Printed in The Record, Opinion Page, 9/26/06 )

"An affirmative legacy at Rutgers Law"

"No 'Inherent Authority' Justifies Warrantless Wiretaps of Citizens"

"Let 'em in and get 'em in: How to give more people the right- and the reason- to vote"

"Confessions of a Turf Lawyer (protecting grass-roots organizing)"

"Everything You Need to Know About Political Campaign Finance and Why the System Cannot Be Fixed"

"Back to Basics: How the U.S. Supreme Court Majority Distorts Modern Constitutional Doctrine (Legislative districting and the Voting Rights Act)"

"FILEGATE May Be Good For Us"

"New Jersey's Latest Crime Wave (Family autonomy and the Right to a public education"

"Two Visions of Justice: Federal Courts at a Crossroads"

"What This Court Needs Is a Justice with Vision"

"The Privatization of Public Space and Its Impact on Free Speech"(The New Jersey Lawyer Magazine, June 1997)

"Turnabout Makes Believers: A Tale of Law and Politics in Which I Share Newt's Pain"(Trenton Times, Commentary Section, June 22, 1997)

"A Tribute to the Late Chief Justice Robert Wilentz"(printed at 49 Rutgers Law Review 657, Summer 1997)

"Justice William J. Brennan, Jr.: The Jurisprudence of Remedies" (printed in 49 Rutgers Law Review. 1277 Summer 1997)

"The Ghost of J. Edgar Hoover Still Haunts Our Privacy"(printed in Washington, D.C. Legal Times, Oct. 13, 1997)

"Reno's Dilemma: Campaign Finance Law, According to Hoyle" (Christian Science Monitor, 12/31/97)

"Brother, Can You Spare IOLTA?" (Legal Times, Washington, D.C., Jan. 5, 1998)

"Free Speech, Private Space, and the Constitution," (29 Rutgers Law Journal 947, Summer 1998)

"Political Money and Freedom of Speech: Kathleen Sullivan's Seven Deadly Sins - An Antitoxin," (31 U.C. Davis Law Review 1065, 1998)

"Counting Us All: The Supreme Court and the 2000 Census" (Legal Times, Washington, D.C., Nov. 16, 1998)

"When Long Hair Was a Crime," (or "How Rehnquist Earned His Stripes") (New York Times Op/Ed Page, 2/2/99)

"A Law School Where Students Don't Just Learn the Law, They Help Make the Law," (51 Rutgers L. Rev. 855 (Symposium 1999))

"Can Congress Gag Legal Services Lawyers," New Jersey Law Journal, Oct. 9, 2000

"Electoral College Daze," Perspective, (Newark) Star-Ledger, Nov. 12, 2000

"The Supreme Court Changes the Rules," New Jersey Law Journal, Jan. 8, 2001

"A Lawless Decision," Rutgers Focus, Feb. 22, 2001

"Why Sampling Should Be Used in Census Count," The (Bergen) Record, Feb. 22, 2001

"Hard Facts About Soft Money: The Debate Over Campaign-Finance Reform", May 20, 2002

"Rehnquist's Story: Chief Justice Has History of Siding with 'Big Brother'", July 12, 2002

"Of Bright Lines and Fuzzy Arguments: McCain-Feingold Tries to Rein in Sham Issue Advocacy", 1 Election Law Journal 373-385 (2002)

"A Great Victory for America," Star-Ledger, June 24, 2003

"Back to (J. Edgar) Hooverism," New Jersey Law Journal, April 28, 2003

"The Case Against Political Gerrymandering," The New Jersey Law Journal and (Washington, D.C.) Legal Times, November 24, 2003

"Ban Disfranchises Those Who Need Most Help," Philadelphia Inquirer, February 4, 2004

"Voting Rights for Parolees and probationers" New Jersey Lawyer, May 3, 2004

"Rescuing the Constituion (Advice to the Obama Administration)," Bergen Record, January 18, 2009

also see Frank Askin's weblog on NJVoices


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Last updated: January 27, 2008