Rare Book & Manuscript Library
 

Herbert Wechsler papers, 1919-2000, bulk 1932-1995

Summary Information

Abstract

This collection contains the papers of lawyer and legal scholar Herbert Wechsler. The various documentation includes Wechsler's work with the United States Department of Justice (including documents from the Nuremberg and International Military Tribunals), The American Law Institute (including the work of the Model Penal Code), Columbia University, and several other organizations to which Wechsler contributed or with which he was affiliated. The collection also contains papers related to Wechsler's legal work, including documents pertaining to his work on New York Times Co. v. Sullivan. Wechsler's scholarly work is also collected here including drafts of articles, books, speeches, and special lectures such as his Oliver Wendell Holmes Lecture, "Toward Neutral Principles of Constitutional Law". The Herbert Wechsler papers also cover various points of interaction Wechsler had with other figures in his field including Francis Biddle, Telford Taylor, and Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter. The genre of documentation is primarily correspondence, reports, and writings with annotations. The collection also contains some ephemera and photographic materials and one audiocassette.

At a Glance

Call No.: MS#1672
Bib ID 10392033 View CLIO record
Creator(s) Wechsler, Herbert, 1909-2000
Title Herbert Wechsler papers, 1919-2000, bulk 1932-1995
Physical Description 60 linear feet (119 boxes: 117 document boxes 2 flat boxes)
Language(s) Material is in English.
Access

his collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least two business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

Series XIV is closed to researchers for personal or legal reasons.

Arrangement

Arrangement

Material is arranged into 14 series: Series I. Education; Series II. Justice Department Work Sub-series A: Assistant Attorney General, 1942-1944; Sub-Series B: Board of Legal Examiners, 1942-1945; Sub-Series C: International Military Tribunal, 1945-1967; Sub-series D: Nuremberg Military Tribunals, 1946-1996; Series III. American Law Institute Sub-series A: Directorship, 1963-1984; Sub-Series B: Model Penal Code (MPC), 1941-2003; Sub-series C: General Files, 1940-1995; Series IV. Organizations; Series V. University Work and Teaching Sub-series A: Columbia University, 1934-1983; Sub-series B: Other Universities, 1956-1987; Series VI. Conferences; Series VII. Legal Work Sub-series A: Private Practice, 1937-1992; Sub-series B: Arbitrations, 1947-1963; Series VIII. Writings, Speeches, and Special Lectures Sub-series A: Articles, 1932-1995; Sub-series B: Books, 1933-1980; Sub-series C: Special Lectures, 1958-1999; Sub-series D: Speeches, 1941-1986; Sub-series E: General Files, 1934-1985; Series IX. Honors and Awards; Series X. Correspondence; Series XI. Subject Files; Series XII. Oversize Documents, Photos, and Ephemera Sub-series A: Photos and Prints, 1941-1970; Sub-series B: Large Materials, 1965-1984; Sub-series C: Largest and Odd Shaped Materials, 1928-1966; Series XIII. Family Papers; Series XIV. Closed Documents

Description

Summary

This collection contains the papers of lawyer and legal scholar Herbert Wechsler. The various documentation includes Wechsler's work with the United States Department of Justice (including documents from the Nuremberg and International Military Tribunals), The American Law Institute (including thework of the Model Penal Code), Columbia University, and several other organizations to which Wechsler contributed or with which he was affiliated. The collection also contains papers related to Wechsler's legal work, including documents pertaining to his work on New York Times Co. v. Sullivan. Wechsler's scholarly work is also collected here including drafts of articles, books, speeches, and special lectures such as his Oliver Wendell Holmes Lecture"Toward Neutral Principles of Constitutional Law". The Herbert Wechsler papers also cover various points of interaction Wechsler had with other figures in his field including Francis Biddle, Telford Taylor, and Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter. The genre of documentation is primarily correspondence, reports, and writings with annotations. The collection also contains some ephemera and photographic materials and one audiocassette.

  • Series I: Education

    Series I: Education (4 boxes, 2 linear feet). This series contains Herbert Wechsler's notebooks on various legal subjects during his coursework as a student at Columbia's Law School. This series also contains some of Wechsler's correspondence while a clerk for Supreme Court Justice H.F. Stone.

  • Series II: Justice Department Work

    Series II: United States Department of Justice (5 boxes, 2.5 linear feet). This series pertains to Herbert Wechsler's work within the Department of Justice and is broken down into four Sub-Series. The first two sub-series (AandB) include Wechsler's work as Assistant to Attorney General Francis Biddle and with the Board of Legal Examiners, respectively. The second two sub-series (CandD) relate to the International and Nuremberg Military Tribunals and Wechsler's work as an assistant to the American judges there. Of particular note is a set of correspondence pertaining to the political battle over Wechsler's nomination as Assistant Attorney General.

  • Series III: American Law Institute

    Series III: American Law Institute (37 boxes, 18.5 linear feet). This series contains the work of Herbert Wechsler in various capacities with The American Law Institute. It is broken up into three Sub-Series.

  • Series IV: Organizations

    Series IV: Organizations (13 boxes, 6.5 linear feet). This series contains files from various organizations Herbert Wechsler was a member of, did work for, or contributed toward. Some notable organizations and projects include the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, the New York State Temporary Commission on Revision of the Penal Law and Criminal Code, the United States Poultry Code Authority, and New York City's Rent Commission.

  • Series V: Teaching and University Work

    Series V: Teaching and University Work (6 boxes, 3 linear feet). This series contains papers related to Wechsler's work as a professor and is split into two sub-series. A large portion of the series consists of the records of interaction with the faculty and various faculty initiatives within Columbia's Law School. Some of the material concerns the student unrest Columbia experienced in 1968 and the Faculty reaction and involvement, particularly at the Law School. A small portion of material deals with discussions on teaching methods.

  • Series VI: Conferences

    Series VI: Conferences (2 boxes, 1 linear foot). This small series contains materials collected from or related to some of the conferences Wechsler attended or spoke at.

  • Series VII: Legal Work

    Series VII: Legal Work (6 boxes, 3 linear feet). This series contains two sub-series.Sub-Series Acontains a portion of Herbert Wechsler's legal work, including some of the work and notes that went into the New York Times v. Sullivan case.Sub-Series Bcontains Wechsler's work as an arbitrator.

  • Series VIII: Writings

    Series VIII: Writings(8 boxes, 4 linear feet). This series contains various writings by Wechsler including speeches and special lectures. Drafts, comments, and correspondence relative to the work that went into many of Wechsler's published work can be found in this series, especially relative to the creation of Wechsler's casebooks. Among the special lectures is Wechsler's article/lecture "Toward Neutral Principles of Constitutional Law" with drafts, notes, and responses. The series also contains Wechsler's "letters to the editor" of various publications.

  • Series IX: Honors and Awards

    Series IX: Honors and Awards (2 boxes, 1 linear foot) This small series relates to the awards and honors, including honorary degrees, which Herbert Wechsler received, and contains the correspondence and other documentation sorrounding these awards. For the actual certificates themselves as well as additional honors and awards, see Series XIII: Oversize Documents, Photos, and Ephemera.

  • Series X: Correspondence

    Series X: Correspondence(13 boxes, 6.5 linear feet). The series of Wechsler's correspondence contains both personal and professional exchanges with a variety of people and organizations. Of particular note is Wechsler's lengthy correspondence with Francis Biddle, Justice Felix Frankfurter, academic criminologist Sir Leon Radzincowitz, and President Richard Nixon (regarding advice on the amendment to reduce the voting age to 18).

  • Series XI: Subject Files

    Series XI: Subject Files (9 boxes, 4.5 linear feet). This series contains various other files held by Wechsler corresponding to his life, work, and points of interest. These are from his personal files that do not fall into the other Series in the collection and contain clippings, notes, and other documentation on matters legal and otherwise. Also within this series is an oral history of Wechsler's, documented by Columbia University.

  • Series XII: Oversize Documents, Photos, and Ephemera

    Series XII: Oversize Documents, Photos, and Ephemera (3 boxes, 1.75 linear feet). This series collects the loose photos, ephemera, and documents that were too large for the other boxes in the collection. It is divided into three sub-series (A: Photos, B: Large Documents, and C: Largest Documents) mostly according to size. Sub-series B and C are arranged according to date. This includes many of the awards and honorary degrees that Wechsler received. Some of the photo subjects include Francis Biddle, the Nuremberg trials and of course Wechsler himself.

  • Series XIII: Wechsler Family Papers

    Series XIII: Family Papers (1 box, 0.5 linear feet). This series holds the papers of other Wechsler family members which Wechsler held, including correspondence with his father, some documents belonging to Doris Wechsler, and the yearbooks belonging to Herbert's brother James.

  • Series XIV: Closed Documents

    Series XIV: Closed Documents (4 boxes, 2 linear feet). This series contains files that are closed for personal or legal reasons.

Using the Collection

Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Restrictions on Access

his collection is located off-site. You will need to request this material at least two business days in advance to use the collection in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library reading room.

Series XIV is closed to researchers for personal or legal reasons.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The RBML maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Herbert Wechsler Papers; Box and Folder; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Processing Information

Processed by Craig P. Savino, 2009.

Finding aid written and created by Craig P. Savino, 2010.

Papers processed 5/2/1999 mmb

Papers appraised [date] appraiser

Revision Description

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.

Genre/Form

Heading "CUL Archives:"
"Portal"
"CUL Collections:"
"CLIO"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
"ArchivedGRID"
Arbitrations Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Audiocassettes Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Clippings (Information Artifacts) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Correspondence Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Criminal Law Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Interviews Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Lectures Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Marginalia (annotations) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Notes, research Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Oral histories Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Photographs Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Speeches Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
minutes (administrative records) Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

Subject

Heading "CUL Archives:"
"Portal"
"CUL Collections:"
"CLIO"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
"ArchivedGRID"
American Bar Association Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
American Law Institute Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Biddle, Francis, 1886-1968 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Columbia University. School of Law Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Criminal law Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Frankfurter, Felix, 1882-1965 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Law -- Study and teaching Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Libel and slander -- United States -- Cases Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Model Penal Code Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
New York (State). Commission on Revision of the Penal Law and Criminal Code Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
New York City Rent Guidelines Board Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Nuremberg War Crime Trials, Nuremberg, Germany, 1946-1949 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Radzinowicz, Leon, 1906-1999 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Stone, Harlan Fiske, 1872-1946 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Student movements -- 1960-1970 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Taylor, Telford Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
United States. Dept. of Justice. United States Supreme Court Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Wechsler, Herbert, 1909-2000 Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Historical/Biographical Note

Born in 1909, Herbert Wechsler entered the City College of New York at 16 and later attended Columbia Law School where he was editor-in-chief of the Law Review. Wechsler graduated at the top of his class in 1931 and went on to serve as a clerk for Supreme Court Justice Harlan F. Stone. After working for Justice Stone, Wechsler returned to Columbia Law School to teach courses in federal jurisdiction and criminal law. During this time Wechsler would collaborate with his colleague Jerome Michael, a partnership that yielded the casebook Criminal Law and Its Administration.

Wechsler's one leave of absence from teaching began in 1940 when he started working in Washington for the Department of Justice, first serving in the Solicitor General's office (1940-1941) and then as Executive Secretary of the Board of Legal Examiners (1941-1942). While working for the Department of Justice, Wechsler formed a personal relationship with Attorney General Francis Biddle, who eventually asked Wechsler to become Assistant Attorney General in charge of the War Division dealing with issues arising from World War II. One of the more notable issues Wechsler had to deal with in this position was reviewing the appellate arguments on behalf of the United States in favor of its internment policy for the case Korematsu v. The United States (1944). When Francis Biddle was appointed as the American Judge for the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg, Wechsler was asked to assist in the Justice Department's preparations for the Tribunals and he eventually worked in Germany as the Principal Technical Adviser to the American judges.

In the years following the war Wechsler returned to teach at Columbia and took on a joint class with Henry Hart on the Federal Courts. The class became the impetus behind a casebook by the two, Hart and Wechsler's The Federal Courts and the Federal System, which became a lauded book in the field and has gone through several editions. While at Columbia Wechsler also worked publicly, serving at the request of New York City Mayor William O'Dwyer as a member of the New York City Rent Commission and as a general adviser on the problems of rent control. Wechsler also worked for New York State on its Temporary Committee for Revision of the Penal Law and Criminal Code.

In 1952 Wechsler began his work as Chief Reporter on The Model Penal Code (MPC) for the American Law Institute (ALI), completing it a decade later. The MPC has since been used as a guide for most state legislatures and has helped in the standardization of codified penal laws in the United States. The same year Wechsler finished the MPC (1962) he was appointed as Director of the ALI. As Director, Wechsler presided over the creation of many studies and models produced by the institute including the Corporate Governance Project, the Second Restatement of Torts, and a Model Code of Pre-Arraignment.

In addition to teaching at Columbia and working with the American Law Institute, Wechsler worked as a private practitioner, with his most notable case being New York Times Co. v. Sullivan (1964). Wechsler successfully represented the New York Times as petitioner against the pursuit of a libel action by L.B. Sullivan, a city commissioner in charge of police in Montgomery, Alabama. The Supreme Court overturned the earlier judgment for Sullivan, convinced by Wechsler's arguments that the standard of libel for public officials and their conduct must come from statements made with actual malice as opposed to negligence. Wechsler also produced many speeches, articles, and books, including most notably his Oliver Wendell Holmes Lecture (and Harvard Law Review article) "Toward Neutral Principles of Constitutional Law," written in 1959. Wechsler argued that judicial decisions must rest on reason and analysis (rather than concern for what immediate result might be reached from a ruling) and described "Neutral Principles" that could be applied. Using these "standards of neutrality" Wechsler criticized several Supreme Court decisions including Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, generating controversy within the world of law scholars as well as without when portions of the lecture were re-published in U.S. News And World Report.

Herbert Wechsler died in April of 2000 in New York City, lauded as a "Legal Giant" by the New York Times and eulogized by many legal scholars and judges in the field including his one-time student Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. He was survived by his wife Doris and sister-in-law, Nancy Wechsler.

Sources:

Dillard, Hardy Cross, "Herbert Wechsler,"Columbia Law Review, Vol. 78, No. 5 (Jun., 1978), pp. 953-956.

"Herbert Wechsler, Legal Giant, Is Dead at 90."The New York Times, 28 Apr. 2000. Stable URL: http://www.nytimes.com/2000/04/28/us/herbert-wechsler-legal-giant-is-dead-at-90.html

Shapiro, David L., "Herbert Wechsler--A Remembrance,"Columbia Law Review, Vol. 100, No. 6 (Oct., 2000), pp. 1377-1383.