Defending Rights: A Life in Law and Politics

Frank Askin, Author
Frank Askin, Author Humanities Press Intl $45 (0p) ISBN 978-0-391-04005-2
Paperback - 215 pages - 978-0-391-04006-9
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A professor at Rutgers Law School, Askin has been one of four general counsels of the American Civil Liberties Union for the past two decades. He ranges widely over his professional life, recounting the battles of a committed leftist. Aided by his FBI files, the author reconstructs his youthful association with the Communist party and union organizing. When he abandoned Communism, he became a journalist and, at 31, went to Rutgers for law school, becoming a follower of the civil libertarian Arthur Kinoy. After joining the faculty, Askin established a constitutional litigation clinic, taking on a range of civil liberties cases, such as when the FBI heavy-handedly investigated young students. He won a key state case establishing freedom of speech in shopping malls and represented Richard Kreimer, a homeless man who was kicked out of his local library. Less interesting are Askin's political stories, ranging from his work on the nuclear freeze movement to some unsuccessful political races, though he suggests interestingly that Rep. John Conyers was the key opponent of Robert Bork's Supreme Court nomination. Askin concludes by reflecting briefly over the ideological splits in the ACLU, where he counts himself a ""realist"" who opposes the ""purists"" on topics like affirmative action and hate speech. He remains optimistic that the federal courts will do more to protect human and political rights. There is no doubt as to Askin's commitment liberal causes but earnestness alone isn't enough to make this more than an unexceptional addition to the recent spate of similarly minded memoirs. (Feb.)
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