The Resource David L. Bazelon Papers

David L. Bazelon Papers

Label
David L. Bazelon Papers, 1941-1993 and undated
Title
David L. Bazelon Papers
Inclusive dates
1941-1993 and undated
Creator
Creator
Subject
Genre
Language
  • eng
  • eng
Summary
  • The David L. Bazelon Papers, 1941-1993 and undated, include case files related to Bazelon's activities as judge on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, including case and subject files. The collection also includes papers related to Bazelon's organizational affiliations, speeches, lectures, and writings. The largest part of the collection comprises subject files related to Bazelon's legal and social advocacy activities, including issues related to mental health law. The collection also includes a series of personal and career files, as well as a selection of audiovisual materials
  • David Lionel Bazelon (1909-1993) graduated from Northwestern University Law School in 1932. In 1936, Bazelon joined the United States Attorney's Office in Chicago, where he specialized in tax cases. In 1949, President Harry S. Truman appointed Bazelon to the newly-created United States Court of Appeals for the District Columbia, making Bazelon, at forty years old, one of the youngest people ever appointed to a federal judgeship. He served on the court from 1949 to 1984, acting as Chief Judge from 1962 to 1978. During this time the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia was often considered the nation's second highest court. In his years on the court Bazelon was involved in decisions on matters ranging from the use of DDT to the definition of insanity. In the mid-1980s Bazelon stopped hearing cases and finally retired from the bench. He died on February 19, 1993, of Alzheimer's disease. The collection, 1941-1993 and undated, includes case files related to Bazelon's activities as judge on the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, including case and subject files. The collection also includes papers related to Bazelon's organizational affiliations, speeches, lectures, and writings. The largest part of the collection comprises subject files related to Bazelon's legal and social advocacy activities, including issues related to mental health law. The collection also includes a series of personal and career files, as well as a selection of audiovisual materials
Biographical or historical data
David Lionel Bazelon was born in Superior, Wisconsin in 1909, the ninth child of Russian Jewish immigrants. His father had been a peddler who later owned a general store. He died when David was two, and shortly thereafter the family moved to Chicago, where David attended public schools. In the twenties he worked as a movie theater usher and store clerk while attending the University of Illinois and Northwestern University Law School. He was the first person in his family to go to college. Many years later, after he had been the Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia for several years, he admitted that his own childhood, spent in less than comfortable circumstances, contributed to the development of his well known sympathy for society's underdogs. In 1932 after graduation from law school and admission to the Illinois Bar, Bazelon entered the private practice of law, but not for long. He joined the United States Attorney's Office in Chicago in 1936, where he specialized in tax cases. He handled the civil tax cases brought against some of Chicago's most notorious gangsters of the thirties. In 1940 he returned to private practice, this time with the law firm of Gottlieb and Schwartz in Chicago. In a short time he became one of five senior partners in this firm of 32. He was by far the youngest senior partner. He was also an active supporter of Roosevelt and Truman, and became friendly with people connected with the Truman administration. In 1946 he left private practice for the last time to join the United States Justice Department as Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Land Division. He soon moved to head the department's Office of Alien Property, where he oversaw the disposition of the assets of more than two hundred companies previously owned by Germans or Japanese whose assets had been frozen during the war. In 1949 President Truman created fifteen new federal judgeships and David Bazelon was appointed to fill one of these in the United Stated Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. At forty years old, he became one of the youngest people ever appointed to a federal judgeship. From 1949 to 1984, David Bazelon served on this court, and for sixteen of those years, from 1962 to 1978, he served as Chief Judge. During this time the Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia was often considered the nation's "second highest" court. Because of its location, this court heard not only the appeals originating in the District, but also appeals brought involving the ever increasing number of government agencies located in Washington. David Bazelon and his liberal colleagues on the court (in particular Judge J. Skelly Wright) set the tone for the court and also influenced much of the decision-making of the Supreme Court. Through the sixties most of the decisions from the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals which were appealed to the Supreme Court were affirmed. Of course, this changed in the seventies. With his former colleague, Warren Burger, as Chief Justice, and new conservative justices on the Supreme Court, and newer conservative judges on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, Bazelon and his colleagues found themselves out of fashion. In his years on the court Bazelon was involved in decisions on matters ranging from the use of DDT to the definition of insanity. His real interest, however were in the areas of the relationship of science to law, the rights of defendants (especially the rights of indigent defendants to adequate counsel), the rights of children, and the rights of those committed to mental institutions to treatment. From the late sixties through the seventies Bazelon served on many commissions and boards of organizations which dealt with these problems, and he gave numerous speeches and lectures on these subjects. He was on the faculty of the Department of Psychiatry of George Washington University, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and a regular lecturer at Johns Hopkins University. His speeches often stirred up controversy, which, of course, is what he wanted them to do. He was an activist on the bench and off. For years he was a pivotal figure in a circle of Washington D.C. liberals that included not only lawyers and judges, but professors, congressmen, psychiatrists, writers, and noted journalists. In the mid 1980s Bazelon stopped hearing cases and finally retired from the bench. He died on February 19, 1993, of Alzheimer's disease.
Cataloging source
PU-L
http://library.link/vocab/creatorDate
1909-1993
http://library.link/vocab/creatorName
Bazelon, David L.
http://library.link/vocab/subjectName
  • Law
  • Criminal law
  • Insanity (Law)
Label
David L. Bazelon Papers
Instantiates
Note
Processing Information: Processed by Melissa Backes
Arrangement
1. Cases 2. Speeches, Lectures, and Writings 3. Court Administration Papers 4. Organizational Papers 5. Meeting Papers 6. Subject Files 7. Correspondence 8. Biographical and Career Papers 9. Audiotapes and Photographs
Extent
71.3 linear feet
Governing access note
The archives reserves the right to restrict access to materials of sensitive nature. Please contact the department for further information. Access is restricted to portions of the David L. Bazelon Papers that remain unprocessed
Immediate source of acquisition
Donated by Richard L. Bazelon as Trustee for the Trust, which was created in connection with the career of David L. Bazelon as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. They were donated on December 30, 1986 and received on May 28, 1987.
Terms governing use
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Type of unit
212 boxes, about 15,000 items.
Label
David L. Bazelon Papers
Note
Processing Information: Processed by Melissa Backes
Arrangement
1. Cases 2. Speeches, Lectures, and Writings 3. Court Administration Papers 4. Organizational Papers 5. Meeting Papers 6. Subject Files 7. Correspondence 8. Biographical and Career Papers 9. Audiotapes and Photographs
Extent
71.3 linear feet
Governing access note
The archives reserves the right to restrict access to materials of sensitive nature. Please contact the department for further information. Access is restricted to portions of the David L. Bazelon Papers that remain unprocessed
Immediate source of acquisition
Donated by Richard L. Bazelon as Trustee for the Trust, which was created in connection with the career of David L. Bazelon as a judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. They were donated on December 30, 1986 and received on May 28, 1987.
Terms governing use
Copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.
Type of unit
212 boxes, about 15,000 items.

Library Locations

    • Biddle Law LibraryBorrow it
      3400 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19104, US
      39.954941 -75.193362
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