A Salute to Anthony Lewis

March 28, 2013

Topics: Miscellaneous

We would be remiss if we failed to note the recent passing of Anthony Lewis, long-time columnist and Supreme Court reporter for the New York Times.  Lewis died on March 25 at the age of 85.

Lewis won two Pulitzer Prizes and is the author of two of the most widely read books on Supreme Court history – “Gideon’s Trumpet,” which detailed the Court’s 1963 decision in Gideon v. Wainwright guaranteeing legal representation to criminal defendants charged with serious crimes and “Make No Law,” which described the Court’s seminal 1964 decision in New York Times v. Sullivan.  Of course, the latter case is near and dear to the heart of any journalist or media lawyer.

Our colleague, Mark J. Prak, who served as an adjunct professor at Duke University’s Law School and Sanford School of Public Policy, notes that he required his students to read “Make No Law” for some 20 years.  His comments on the book are an appropriate elegy for Lewis:

“Make No Law” is the best book about the First Amendment ever written.  Period.

If you care about the First Amendment and have not read the book, you have some homework to do.  But it will be enjoyable homework.  Several generations of lawyers and students of the First Amendment have benefitted from Lewis’ fulsome description of the people, institutions, and societal forces at play in the story that gave rise to the great case.  Lewis’ detailed account of the Court’s work in Times v. Sullivan and his description of the metamorphosis of the First Amendment throughout the history of the Court is unparalleled and, above all, a great read.

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