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Tribe, Laurence H.

TRIBE, LAURENCE H.

TRIBE, LAURENCE H. (1941– ), U.S. lawyer, legal scholar. Born in Shanghai, China, Tribe and his family moved to San Francisco when he was five. He graduated from Harvard summa cum laude in mathematics in 1962 and Harvard Law School in 1966, magna cum laude. After serving as a clerk on the Supreme Court, Tribe joined the Harvard Law faculty in 1968 and became recognized as one of the foremost constitutional law experts in the country. He was the author of American Constitutional Law (1978), the most frequently cited textbook in that field. He served as a consultant to several government committees, including the Senate Committee on Public Works (1970–72). In 1978 he helped write a new constitution for the Marshall Islands. He was also noted for his frequent testimony before congressional committees and his extensive support of liberal legal causes. His book, God Save This Honorable Court (1985), in which he warned against "presidential court-packing," was considered the main influence in the failure of Robert H. Bork to win confirmation to a seat on the United States Supreme Court in 1987. Tribe's expertise was in legal, constitutional, and jurisprudential theory, the role of law in shaping technological development, and the uses and abuses of mathematical methods in policy and systems analysis. He argued many high-profile cases before the Supreme Court, including those for Al Gore during the disputed presidential election of 2000. The court had also ruled against Tribe in Bowers v. Hardwick in 1986, holding that a Georgia state law criminalizing sodomy, as applied to consensual acts between persons of the same sex, did not violate fundamental liberties under the principle of substantive due process. However, Tribe was vindicated in 2003 when the court overruled Bowers in Lawrence v. Texas. Although Tribe did not argue that case, he wrote the amicus, or friend of the court, brief on behalf of the American Civil Liberties Union urging that Bowers be overruled. Tribe was widely respected by the justices, as indicated by the fact that many of them referred to him as Professor Tribe during oral arguments, a sign of respect not generally shown toward law professors arguing before the court. In 2004, it was revealed that several passages in God Save This Honorable Court were copied without proper attribution from the 1974 book Justices and Presidents, written by Henry J. Abraham, a University of Virginia political scientist. In 2005, Harvard's president and dean released a statement saying that Tribe's admitted failure to provide appropriate attribution was a "significant lapse in proper academic practice," but that they regarded the error as "the product of inadvertence rather than intentionality." Tribe was the J. Alfred Prufrock University Professor at Harvard, one of 19 holding the title university professor.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]

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