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Vorenberg, James


VORENBERG, JAMES (1928–2000), U.S. lawyer. Vorenberg, the son and grandson of presidents of the Gilchrist Company department store in Boston, graduated from Harvard College and its law school, where he was president of the Law Review. He served in the United States Air Force and then became clerk for Justice Felix *Frankfurter of the Supreme Court in 1953 and 1954. He joined the Boston law firm of Ropes & Gray in 1954 and returned to Harvard as a professor of criminal law in 1962. He was active in legal and public affairs. From 1965 to 1967 he served as executive director of a commission appointed by President Lyndon B. Johnson to study the growing problem of crime in America. The report the commission produced reflected Vorenberg's observation that fighting crime required solutions such as rehabilitation services and larger court staffs that were far more complex than those that had been relied upon traditionally, such as larger budgets for the police. He published an article suggesting that the American tradition of giving prosecutors unfettered power had gone too far and proposed limits on their authority. At Harvard, he worked to broaden police understanding of legal principles. In 1973 Vorenberg was selected as one of the senior assistants to Archibald Cox, helping to organize the office that had been established to investigate the burglary at Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate complex and assertions of campaign sabotage by the Committee to Re-Elect President Richard M. Nixon. Vorenberg set up the staff that continued the investigation that led to Nixon's resignation. In 1981 Vorenberg became dean of the Harvard Law School. His eight-year tenure was somewhat stormy because of bitter disputes over tenure decisions involving professors who advocated a school of legal thought known as critical legal studies, which asserted that law was not neutral. Critical legal scholars argued that law was an oppressive tool of the rich and powerful. While the battles raged, some black Harvard law students protested, saying that there were not enough minority members on the law school faculty. Vorenberg was largely credited with keeping the law school intact during that period. He also was an advocate of affirmative action, to increase the number of minority faculty and students.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]

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