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Alan Dershowitz

  • American lawyer
  • Born September 1, 1938

Alan Morton Dershowitz (; born September 1, 1938) is an American lawyer and academic. He is a scholar of United States constitutional law and criminal law who has been described as a noted civil libertarian. He began his teaching career at Harvard Law School where, in 1967, at the age of 28, he became the youngest full professor of law in its history. He held the Felix Frankfurter professorship there from 1993 until his retirement in December 2013, and has been a regular media contributor, political commentator, and legal analyst.


The struggle for morality never stays won. It's always in process.




I tell my students, if you ever become comfortable with your role as criminal defense lawyer, it's time to quit. It should be a constant source of discomfort, because you're dealing with incredible moral ambiguity, and you've been cast into a role which is not enviable.




The threat or fear of violence should not become an excuse or justification for restricting freedom of speech.




We have to fulfill what the real meaning of the Second Amendment is: reasonable access to guns for self-protection and for hunting. And there's no room in America for these semiautomatic, automatic and other kinds of weapons that are simply designed to cause mass havoc.




If torture is going to be administered as a last resort in the ticking-bomb case, to save enormous numbers of lives, it ought to be done openly, with accountability, with approval by the president of the United States or by a Supreme Court justice.




The pervasiveness of guns in our society is destroying America.




The defendant wants to hide the truth because he's generally guilty. The defense attorney's job is to make sure the jury does not arrive at that truth.




I charge my wealthy clients a lot and put 10 per cent in a fund which I use to pay the expenses of my poorer clients. When the government gangs up on the poor schnook in the street, someone has to stand up for him.




Being offended by freedom of speech should never be regarded as a justification for violence.




I don't think the law exists to arrive at the truth. If it did, we wouldn't have exclusionary rules, we wouldn't have presumptions of innocence, we wouldn't have proof beyond reasonable doubt. There's an enormous difference between the role of truth in law and the role of truth in science. In law, truth is one among many goals.




The law is agnostic about truth. It's very skeptical of ultimate truth. That's why freedom of speech permits lies to be told.




The law is agnostic about truth.




In today's distorted world of 'human rights,' truth takes a back seat to ideology, and false claims - especially those that 'support' radical ideologies - persist even after they have been exposed.




I've thought of publishing a book of my hate mail, but I don't own the rights to the letters.




I think mistakes are the essence of science and law. It's impossible to conceive of either scientific progress or legal progress without understanding the important role of being wrong and of mistakes.




You can't think about terrorism without thinking about Palestinian terrorism. Palestinians began international terrorism. It started with them in 1968. They used it as the first resort, not the last resort. They invented it, they perfected it, they benefited from it and they taught the world how to use it and that it would be successful.




There are two kinds of terrorism. Rational terrorism such as Palestinian terrorism and apocalyptic terrorism like Sept. 11. You have to distinguish between the two.




We all learn in school that the judicial, legislative and executive branches of government must check and balance each other. But other non state institutions must participate in this important system of checks and balances as well. These checking institutions include the academy, the media, religious institutions and NGOs.




Freedom of speech means freedom for those who you despise, and freedom to express the most despicable views. It also means that the government cannot pick and choose which expressions to authorize and which to prevent.




You're absolutely right: Bob Grant is a racist, Bob Grant is a bigot, he's a despicable talk show host and I agree with that.




I love to play. I love, opera, hiking and museums. The one thing I don't do is sit. I have a tremendous amount of energy.




It's every lawyer's dream to help shape the law, not just react to it.




Every lawsuit results from somebody doing something wrong. If everybody did right, we wouldn't need laws.




What the United States has to do is send a clear message to Iran that they will not be able to develop nuclear weapons. Why endure the difficulty of sanctions if they are not going to be able to develop nuclear weapons anyway?




A criminal trial is never about seeking justice for the victim. If it were, there could be only one verdict: guilty.




I've had such a satisfying life professionally and personally. I hope my tombstone says, 'Never boring.'




When you discriminate against anyone, you discriminate against everyone. It's a display of terrible intolerance.




I've written important articles on prevention, on the concept of the preventive state, how the law is moving much more in an area of trying to prevent wrongs than trying to deal with them after they occur. That will be my academic/intellectual legacy.




Good character consists of recognizing the selfishness that inheres in each of us and trying to balance it against the altruism to which we should all aspire. It is a difficult balance to strike, but no definition of goodness can be complete without it.




I don't believe in firing professors. They have academic freedom.




Scientists search for truth. Philosophers search for morality. A criminal trial searches for only one result: proof beyond a reasonable doubt.




When I was growing up, my mother would always say, 'It will go on your permanent record.' There was no 'permanent record.' If there were a 'permanent record,' I'd never be able to be a lawyer. I was such a bum in elementary school and high school... There is a permanent record today, and it's called the Internet.




All sides in a trial want to hide at least some of the truth.




Hypocrisy is not a way of getting back to the moral high ground. Pretending you're moral, saying your moral is not the same as acting morally.




You know, it's ironic to me that Christians want to keep the Ten Commandments in our schools, because Christianity has abrogated four of the Ten Commandments. For example, the Sabbath day according to the Ten Commandments is Saturday, not Sunday. And the reason is because God rested, not because Jesus was resurrected.




I was critical of race-based affirmative action early on in my career and I've changed my mind. And I've publicly acknowledged that I was wrong.



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