Academic journal article Albany Law Review

Hon. Irwin Cotler

Academic journal article Albany Law Review

Hon. Irwin Cotler

Article excerpt

MR. COTLER: Thanks, Paul. I'm really delighted to be here and to be able to participate in the common cause which brings us together, because in paying tribute to Alan Dershowitz, we really are paying tribute to the pursuit of justice. Alan has imbibed that biblical injunction of tzedek, tzedek, tirdof--justice, justice, shall you pursue--and, going through his works yet again, I noticed something that I hadn't seen the first time, something that had been inculcated in him by his father, as the same notion had been embedded in me by my father, who spoke of the pursuit of justice as being equal to all of the other commandments combined. It was, as he put it, part of the vici nam tam de venacha--that which you shall teach unto the generations. It was something that we had to internalize and teach, and not only teach, but live and experience. And it had to really be an ongoing struggle for justice. And that justice, the pursuit of justice, could only be understood not as a theoretical abstraction but as something that has to be experienced. And Alan goes through this in his works in terms of a theory of rights and in Genesis. But the important thing here is that the struggle for justice has to be carried out in terms of the struggle against injustice--that you have to feel the injustice around you in order to be able to pursue justice.

You can see this looking at two of Alan's recent works. The Genesis of Justice is about ten case studies of injustice from which comes the notion of justice. And, indeed, there were ten commandments before that book was written, and I think close to another ten have been written. And a more recent book, Rights from Wrongs, in terms of theory of rights, documents the notion of human rights coming from a notion of human wrongs. Again, the pursuit of justice coming from experiencing the struggle against injustice.

What I would like to do is share with you a kind of snapshot of the variegated or multiple rules to which Alan Dershowitz has given expression in the pursuit of justice in respect of--which one can find, underpinning it always--the struggle against injustice. And let me begin with what I think underpins everything that Alan does. And that is, Alan Dershowitz as a law teacher. Here I speak somewhat as an expert witness because I had the privilege of co-teaching with him on several occasions. But the first encounter I actually had with Alan as a law teacher was when I was a student at that time in 1965-66, a student in the graduate program at Yale Law School. And at the beginning of the year we were taken to Harvard--you know, there was a joke that the same course at Harvard is called creditor's rights, while at Yale it's called debtor's estates. So we went there, you know, with a certain sense that we had a greater moral centeredness. But when we came there, I thought I would listen in on a certain professor--because I had heard about Alan Dershowitz, who was teaching then a course on psychoanalysis, psychiatry and the law. And I found his teaching so compelling, so provocative, and so intellectually challenging in every respect that I returned to Yale, determined to do my graduate work, and did so, in psychoanalysis and law. That was my L.L.M. program. And I don't think Alan knows this to this day, but that became my field of graduate study. I even for a moment explored the notion of actually doing this as a career until I realized that in the best interest of prospective clients, I ought not to engage in that pursuit.

But what I found, in terms of that initial encounter as a student, and then teaching with Alan, were a number of qualities that distinguish him as a teacher. The first being Alan's incredible knowledge of the subject matter. Whether Alan was teaching criminal law or psychoanalysis, psychiatry and the law, what was important was not only the knowledge of the specific subject matter but the principles and perspectives that would underlie that specific subject matter. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.