2017 July 1

Norman Dorsen, Civil Liberties Giant, ACLU Leader, Dies


Norman Dorsen, civil liberties giant and ACLU leader, died  on this day.  Dorsen served as General Counsel of the ACLU in 1969 and became President of the Board of Directors in 1976, serving until 1991. At the time he became president of the board, the ACLU was in the midst of a serious crisis of declining membership and financial problems. His efforts were credited with restoring the organization’s health.

As an attorney, Dorsen successfully argued the landmark case of In re Gault (1967) before the Supreme Court, in which the court invalidated existing juvenile court procedures that denied basic due process protections to juveniles before the court. He also successfully argued Levy v. Louisiana (1968), in which the court guaranteed equal protection of the law for out-of=wedlock children.

Dorsen taught at NYU Law School for several decades, where he became the Director of the Arthur Garfield Hays Civil Liberties Program. The program was named for Hays who served for many years as General Counsel for the ACLU.

Learn more about the ACLU.

Read about the history of the ACLU: Samuel Walker, In Defense of American Liberties: A History of the ACLU (1990)


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