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Tribe Headed to Justice Department
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Laurence Tribe, prominent Harvard Law professor and generally considered one of the foremost liberal constitutional law scholars and Supreme Court practitioners in the country (he has appeared before the Supreme Court 34 times), will join the Justice Department next week to serve as a senior counselor for “access to justice”. In this role Tribe will focus on increasing legal access for the poor. Tribe has taught at Harvard Law since 1968 and will take a leave of absence when he joins the DOJ.

This turn of events comes a week after senior officials at the Justice Department appeared at a Washington conference to draw attention to large caseloads handled by public defenders and other struggles in providing legal aid to economically disadvantaged defendants. For example,  there are cases of juvenile defendants forced to go to court without seeing a lawyer because of a lack of access to legal services.

Tribe has had a storied and prominent career. His formers pupils include President Obama, whom he backed in the last election, Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and US Solicitor General Elena Kagen. Tribe was a part of Gore’s legal team during the election recount in 2000. He has argued before the Supreme Court 34 times on behalf of gay rights, in support of busing to integrate schools, to defend “dial-a-porn” services as free speech and against a rule that forbade mentioning abortion in federally funded family planning clinics. In 1987 he was a key witness against Robert Bork during Bork’s nomination hearings.


Tribe has done extensive pro bono work involving victims rights, including representing migrant workers injured by large farming companies, tenant farmers in Hawaii who wanted land reforms and representing plaintiffs who sued Tobacco companies for their deliberate deception of the health effects of cigarettes.

Additionally Tribe has written several works, including “American Constitutional Law”, often referenced as one of the most cited legal texts of the past half century.

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