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The Legal Oral History Project was a collaborative effort by a team of faculty, librarians, and students to record and preserve first-person narratives of graduates and members of the Penn Law Community conducted between 1999 and 2006. Streaming media is accompanied by transcripts and video indexes where available.
The project begins with a seminar taught by Professor Sarah Barringer Gordon and former Associate Director for Public Services of the Biddle Law Library Edwin Greenlee which trained students in the theory and practice of oral history. Each student then selected a distinguished graduate or member of the Penn Law community and conducts a one-to two-hour videotaped interview. Following the interview, the student transcribed the videotape and prepared a biographical article for publication. The videotape, transcript, article, and other biographical information were then archived in Biddle Law Library. The archive, which is posted on the web as well as housed in the library, is a valuable resource for legal scholars around the country, and for members of the law school and university.
The project enabled students to meet with accomplished alumni/ae and gain perspective on the study and practice of law. Students and alumni were challenged by the project to work together to preserve the past as partners in a joint enterprise. By studying the legal accomplishments of distinguished alumni in historical context, participants gain a vivid appreciation for how developments in the law have influenced historical events. More importantly, students gain a sense of how often lawyers have been in a position to actually shape these events.
The project sought to preserve in readily accessible form the events of the past as remembered by Penn alumni, professors, and community. The esteemed position Penn law affiliates hold in the legal community often means that they possess reflections on important historical events unavailable elsewhere. As an institution with a tradition of leadership and accomplishment, Penn has a duty to insure that the perspectives of its alumni are preserved.
Penn joins a growing number of legal institutions with oral history programs. The American Bar Foundation has an established program; relatively new programs are underway at the law schools of Yale University and the University of North Carolina, among others.
What is perhaps most striking about talking to alumni is how closely their experiences match those of present day students. Frequently they recall the unique conviviality of Penn students, squirming under a well-delivered Socratic assault, and the off-beat antics of some of Penn’s more colorful professors. Preserving these reflections in the legal oral history format is a way for participants to celebrate and affirm the enduring character of the Penn Law experience. The publication of student papers in the Penn Law Journal insures that the entire Penn Law community also has a chance to participate.
Washington, D.C. native and first-born Professor Regina Austin attests to having her parents’ and grandparents’ work ethic. In 1966, she left Washington, D.C. to attend college at the University of Rochester where she graduated in 1970 with a major in History and a minor in English. At Rochester, Professor Austin was very active in the Civil Rights Movement and notes her most memorable event was when she and other black students took over the faculty club.
Professor Austin went on to attend the University of Pennsylvania Law School where she graduated in the top ten percent of her class and was named a member of the Order of the Coif. She was the only black female in her graduating class of 1973. Professor Austin cites some of her most influential professors as Edward Sparer, Martha Field, and Julius Chambers.
Following law school, Professor Austin clerked for Judge Edmund Spaeth in Pennsylvania. After a year of clerking for Judge Spaeth, Professor Austin worked as an Associate for Schnader, Harrison, Segal and Lewis. Between 1974 and 1977 she worked in areas such as: estate planning, business and litigation. Professor Austin spent most of her time working in the litigation department; however, she considers herself to have been more of a “library” litigator than a general litigator. In 1977, Professor Austin decided that she was ready pursue a career that she had pondered since graduating from law school and was hired by the University of Pennsylvania Law School as a professor.
Professor Austin has taught Torts, Insurance, Cultural Conflict and Intentional Torts, Socioeconomic and legal Status of Working Poor, and Environmental Racism. She served as a visiting Professor at Harvard (1989-1990), Stanford (1991) and Brooklyn (1998) law schools. In 1996, Professor Austin was named as a Schnader Professor of Law. Professor Austin considers her most significant achievement as being an institutional actor for the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
Professor Austin has written various articles exploring the relevance of culture to the resolution of legal issues, most notably, “Sapphire Bound!”. In 1991, Professor Austin also co-authored, Environmentalism and the Quest for Eco-Justice, one of the seminal articles in environmental racism. In addition, she has done a significant amount of work concerning environmental racism at the National Research Center.
Arlin Adams, a 1947 graduate of Penn Law was a native Philadelphian. Born in 1921, and raised during the Great Depression, Mr. Adams earned an undergraduate degree from Temple University in three and one-half years while working full-time. He continued to work full-time for the first half of his tenure at the Penn Law School, although he was the recipient of a full tuition scholarship. In 1942, in response to the events at Pearl Harbor, Mr. Adams took a leave of absence from the law school, enlisted in the United States Navy and saw action in the North Pacific as a Logistics Officer. Prior to his discharge from the Navy, while stationed in Philadelphia, Mr. Adams attended evening classes at Penn and Temple earning a Master’s Degree in Economics awarded by both Universities.
Upon returning to Penn Law, Mr. Adams was elected Editor-in-Chief of the Penn Law Review. After graduation, he became Law Clerk to the Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, Horace Stern. Immediately following his clerkship, Mr. Adams was offered a teaching position at Penn Law as well as an Associate position at the law firm now known as Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis. Mr. Adams passed away on December 22, 2015.
Mr. Adams had a long history of public service. In 1963, he was appointed Secretary of Public Welfare for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In 1968, President Richard Nixon appointed Mr. Adams to serve as a Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Mr. Adams maintained his position on the Third Circuit for seventeen years. In 1990, he was named Independent Counsel for the investigation of HUD, a position that he held through 1995. He served as Trustee in the bankruptcy of the New Era Foundation, the largest bankruptcy of a non-profit organization to date. He served on the American Bar Association’s Joint Committee to draft regulations for arbitration in the health field and maintained a membership in the American Arbitration Association. Mr. Adams served as President of the American Philosophical Society and was a member of Pennsylvanian’s for Modern Courts, an organization dedicated to the improvement of Pennsylvania’s courts.
Throughout his career, Mr. Adams maintained an active association with Penn Law. In addition to numerous teaching engagements, Mr. Adams served as President of the Board of Overseers and was selected as the Owen Roberts lecturer in 1987.
Mr. Adams’ dedication to public service has been widely recognized. He was the recipient of numerous awards including honorary degrees from Penn and Villanova. In 1997, he received the Philadelphia Award for service to the community and in 1999 he received the Bar Association’s Gold Medal Award.
Stewart Dalzell was a 1969 graduate of Penn Law School. He was born in 1943 in Hackensack and grew up in Bloomfield, New Jersey, the only son of a steel salesman and a homemaker. He attended the Wharton School and, after graduating in 1965, moved to New York City to work as a financial consultant at NBC. A year later he returned to the University of Pennsylvania to enroll in the Law School.
Dalzell’s experience at Penn Law reinforced his interest in politics, the law, and the judicial process as a whole. After graduation, Dalzell practiced as an attorney at the law firm of Drinker, Biddle and Reath. In 1971 he worked on the unsuccessful Philadelphia mayoral campaign of W. Thacher Longstreth, a long-time friend. Dalzell was involved in the Charter fight in the late 1970’s, where Major Frank Rizzo sought to amend the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter to allow him to run for a third term as mayor. He formed a coalition in opposition to the change, which was ultimately defeated. He was also involved in John Heinz’ successful campaign for the U.S. Senate.
Recommended by Pennsylvania’s Senators Heinz and Spector, President George Bush nominated him to fill a judicial vacancy on the federal bench in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in 1990. He was confirmed by the Senate in 1991. One of Dalzell’s most well-known opinions was ACLU v. Reno, the Internet - First Amendment case which declared the unconstitutionality of the Federal Communications Decency Act. Mr. Dalzell passed away on February 18, 2019.
Professor Curtis R. Reitz is a 1956 graduate of Penn Law School. He also attended Penn as an undergraduate and graduated in 1951. In between college and law school, Professor Reitz served for two years in the Korean War. At Penn Law, Professor Reitz was editor-in-chief of the Law Review. He cites some of his most influential professors as Leo Levin, John Honnold, and Lou Schwartz. Upon graduating Penn Law, Professor Reitz began a clerkship for Earl Warren, Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court where he worked on several post-McCarthy era cases involving Communism. Following his clerkship, Professor Reitz returned to Penn as a professor to teach Civil Procedure and Sales. He also became involved in university administration becoming Provost and Vice President of the University of Pennsylvania and eventually serving as Counselor to the President, a part time position dedicated to maintaining a good relationship between the University and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. One of the most significant aspects of Professor Reitz’s career has been his involvement with the Uniform Commercial Code. He has worked on various drafting sessions and has been involved in changing the drafting process to get the public more involved. In addition, as a Commissioner of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, he has served on numerous drafting committees and has met a lot of talented and interesting people who, over the years, have become like family members.
David Rudovsky is a Senior Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Rudovsky received a B.A. in American Studies from Queens College in 1964 and an L.L.B. from New York University in 1967. During the summer after his second year of law school, Rudovsky interned for C.B. King, a civil rights attorney in southwest Georgia. Rudovsky cites this experience in conjunction with the rises of both the Civil Rights and Anti-Vietnam War movements as sparking his interest in pursuing a career promoting and protecting civil liberties. After graduating from law school in 1967, Rudovsky came to Penn Law as a fellow in one of the first clinical legal studies programs in the country under Professor Tony Amsterdam. Though originally slated to be a two year commitment to the law school and the Philadelphia Public Defender’s office, Rudovsky remained in the program for a third year working under Professor Howard Lesnick. In 1971, Rudovsky and another fellow at the Penn clinic, David Carries, started their own private law practice specializing in civil rights, civil liberties and criminal defense. However, Rudovsky’s relationship with the University of Pennsylvania remained intact, and, in 1971, he returned to Penn Law first as a part-time instructor supervising students in the clinic researching prisoner’s rights, and later as an instructor in trial advocacy. (1974-1983) Rudovsky began his stint as a Senior Fellow at the Law School in 1987. Currently, Rudovsky teaches one class per semester, Criminal Law, Constitutional Criminal Procedure, or Evidence, while also working as a practitioner at the law firm he established roughly 30 years ago. He specializes in class and in practice in the areas of police misconduct and search and seizure. Rudovsky credits his success as a teacher on his ability to merge doctrine and practical experience he has gained from his legal work. Rudovsky has twice argued in front of the United States Supreme Court, both times in Civil Rights cases. He is also the author of a book on police misconduct litigation which has been in print for 22 years. He has received a number of awards including the Flood Memorial Award, the Mac Arthur Foundation Award, the American Civil Liberties Award and the Bread and Roses Community Fund Social Justice Award. Among the things Rudovsky would like to do in the future is continue to teach as well as devote more time to research and writing. He hopes that in the long run his work will help to produce systemic change in the way police departments operate and deal with the public.
Judge Dolores K. Sloviter, of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, discusses her life experiences and memories in this 82 minute interview including her childhood in Philadelphia, undergraduate years at Temple University, experiences as a law student at the University of Pennsylvania, first job at a Philadelphia firm, and roles as an appellate judge in the Third Circuit and professor at Temple University. The interview is filled with anecdotes and stories about her life and she talks about several of her most memorable cases. Judge Sloviter’s excitement and love for the law is apparent as she comments about a woman’s experiences in law school, in the work place, and on the bench.