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Michael Meltsner papers

 Collection
Identifier: M175

Scope and Content Note

This collection contains materials related to Michael Meltsner's professional activities as a practicing lawyer, writer, and educator from 1961 to 2006. It is arranged in three series. The first series documents Meltsner's activities as a practicing lawyer. Included are docket reports and case files from his years working at the Legal Defense Fund (LDF) and in the National Office for the Rights of the Indigent (NORI). The case files include documents from cases argued before the United States Supreme Court and various circuit courts of appeal, including Spinkellink v. Wainwright (death penalty), People v. Mosher (prisoner's rights), Ali v. Division of State Athletic Commission (civil rights), and In Re: Barbara Burrus et. al. (civil rights). Of particular interest are materials documenting Meltsner's consulting work with the Legal Resource Centre and the Black Lawyers' Association in South Africa during the early 1980s, when the country was still operating under a system of apartheid. The second series documents Meltsner's research and writing, most significantly the preparation of his memoir, The Making of a Civil Rights Lawyer. There are articles about Meltsner and his work included in the Publications folders, as well as photographs used in publications and promotional material. The third series contains material from a course in clinical legal education (learning by doing), the first of its kind, which Meltsner developed while teaching at Columbia Law School. The series contains the instructor's guide, syllabus, and documentation of various class exercises along with related audiovisual components.

Dates

  • 1961-2008 (bulk 1978-2004)

Creator

Language of Materials

Materials predominantly in English. Several publications in German or French.

Conditions Governing Access:

The collection is unrestricted

Conditions Governing Reproduction and Use:

Copyright restrictions may apply. Reel-to-reel recordings of students participating in clinical legal education class exercises were made with the knowledge and consent of the students. See the collection control file for further information.

Historical Note

Michael Meltsner has taught at Northeastern University School of Law since 1979. He earned his A.B. from Oberlin College in 1957 and his LL.B. / J.D. from Yale University in 1960. From 1961-1970 Meltsner worked as First Assistant Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) and was co-director, along with Jack Greenberg, of the National Office for the Rights of the Indigent (NORI), a “paper office” within the Legal Defense Fund. During the 1960s and 1970s, Meltsner served as legal counsel for several hundred cases in state and federal courts involving desegregation, prisoner's rights, and the death penalty. In 1973 he published a book about his work to end to the death penalty, Cruel and Unusual: The Supreme Court and Capital Punishment. His recent memoir, The Making of a Civil Rights Lawyer (2005), is a personal account of these years. Meltsner began his teaching career as a Lecturer on Criminal Law at New York University School of Law (1967-1969) and in 1970 became a Professor of Law at Columbia University School of Law. Since 1970, Meltsner has taught and served in various capacities at Columbia University, Northeastern, and Harvard Law School, and he has lectured abroad in India and Germany. He served as Dean and Professor of Law at Northeastern University School of Law from 1979-1984 before being appointed as Distinguished University Professor in 1984. In addition to his legal and teaching careers, Michael Meltsner attended the Kantor Family Institute between 1983-1985 and is a licensed Marriage / Family Therapist in private practice in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Chronology
  • 1957 Earned A.B., Oberlin College.
  • 1960 Earned LL.B / J.D., Yale Law School.
  • 1961-1970 Served as First Assistant Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. (LDF) and Co-Director, National Office for the Rights of the Indigent (NORI).
  • 1970-1979 Appointed Professor of Law, Columbia University School of Law and served as Co-Founder and Director, Morningside Heights Legal Services, Inc.
  • 1979-1984 Appointed Dean and Professor of Law, Northeastern University Law School and Chief Executive Officer of the School of Law.
  • 1983-1985 Attended Kantor Family Institute.
  • 1984-Present Appointed George J. and Kathleen Water Matthews Distinguished University Professor of Law, Northeastern University School of Law

Chronology

1957
Earned A.B., Oberlin College.
1960
Earned LL.B / J.D., Yale Law School.
1961-1970
Served as First Assistant Counsel, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. (LDF) and Co-Director, National Office for the Rights of the Indigent (NORI).
1970-1979
Appointed Professor of Law, Columbia University School of Law and served as Co-Founder and Director, Morningside Heights Legal Services, Inc.
1979-1984
Appointed Dean and Professor of Law, Northeastern University Law School and Chief Executive Officer of the School of Law.
1983-1985
Attended Kantor Family Institute.
1984-Present
Appointed George J. and Kathleen Water Matthews Distinguished University Professor of Law, Northeastern University School of Law

Extent

3.15 cubic feet (4 containers)

Overview

Michael Meltsner has taught at Northeastern University School of Law since 1979. He earned his A.B. from Oberlin College in 1957 and his LL.B. / J.D. from Yale University in 1960. From 1961-1970 Meltsner worked as First Assistant Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) and was co-director, along with Jack Greenberg, of the National Office for the Rights of the Indigent (NORI), a “paper office” within the Legal Defense Fund. Since 1970, Meltsner has taught and served in various capacities at Columbia University, Northeastern, and Harvard Law School, and he has lectured abroad in India and Germany. He served as Dean and Professor of Law at Northeastern University School of Law from 1979-1984 before being appointed as Distinguished University Professor in 1984.

Overview

This collection contains materials related to Michael Meltsner's professional activities as a practicing lawyer, writer, and educator from 1961 to 2006. It is arranged in three series. The first series documents Meltsner's activities as a practicing lawyer. Included are docket reports and case files from his years working at the Legal Defense Fund (LDF) and in the National Office for the Rights of the Indigent (NORI). The second series documents Meltsner's research and writing, most significantly the preparation of his memoir, The Making of a Civil Rights Lawyer. The third series contains material from a course in clinical legal education (learning by doing), the first of its kind, which Meltsner developed while teaching at Columbia Law School.

System of Arrangement:

Organized into three series: 1. Legal Work; 2. Research and Writing; and 3. Teaching

Technical Access:

Audiovisual material in series 2 and series 3 include VHS, audiocassette and reel-to-reel video tape. VHS and audiocassette players are available in the archives; special arrangements need to be made to use the reel-to-reel recordings.

Physical Location

55/2

Immediate Source of Acquisition:

This collection was donated by Michael Meltsner on 21 June 1999 and 30 April 2007.

Related Archival Materials:

Related materials can be found in the Michael Meltsner Papers [ca. 1965]-1974 (http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/archival/collections/ldpd_4079098/index.html) held in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia University, New York, New York

Bibliography

  • Meltsner, Michael. The Making of a Civil Rights Lawyer. Charlottesville, N.C.: University of Virginia Press, 2005.
  • Meltsner, Michael. Curriculum Vitae. 2010. Box 1, Folder 8.
Title
Finding aid for the Michael Meltsner Papers
Author
Finding aid prepared by Anna J. Cook
Date
July 2010
Language of description
Description is in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Northeastern University Archives and Special Collections Repository

Contact:
92 Snell Library
Northeastern University
360 Huntington Avenue
Boston MA 02115 US