Herbert Wechsler (1909–2000 )
Faculty 1931–78, Emeritus 1978–92
A noted academician and director of the American Law Institute, Herbert Wechler graduated in 1931 from the law school, where he had served as editor-in-chief of the law review. He went on to serve as a law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court justice Harlan Fiske Stone. In 1933, he joined the law school's faculty, from which he taught generations of law students. He was associated with Columbia until his death in 2000 at the age of 90. In addition to his years as a faulty member, Wechsler also served as the chief reporter of the American Law Institute's Model Penal Code and as director of the American Law Institute from 1963 to 1984. During his prolific career, he authored several monumental works and his celebrated Holmes lecture at Harvard, "Toward Neutral Principles of Constitutional Law," is a landmark in the literature of the law.
Wechsler also served his country as assistant attorney general in charge of the War Division from 1944 to 1946. In this capacity, he developed the legal framework for the trying of Nazi war criminals during the Nuremberg trials, for which he functioned as the chief technical advisor for all American judges participating. As an appellate advocate, Wechsler's argued the seminal case of New York Times v. Sullivan, which established the legal standard for the awarding of damages for the defamation of public figures only upon a showing that the statement in question was made with "actual malice." Herbert Wechsler was one of the giants of American law. During his long life, he made as well as taught law and his contributions to the field mark him as a latter day Blackstone.
Submitted by Rudy Carmenaty, School of Law 1990, who is solely responsible for the content.