40 Years of Clinical Legal Education: Honoring Arthur Kinoy & Frank Askin
“How will you respond when your call comes? What will your contribution be?”
That’s a question Arthur Kinoy frequently asked in his classes at Rutgers School of Law–Newark and one that inspired several generations of law students at Rutgers and around the country to use their legal talents to advance equality and social justice. Kinoy was a member of the Rutgers faculty from 1964 until he retired in 1992, serving then as an emeritus professor until his death in 2003. A prominent civil rights attorney for more than 50 years and a founder of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Arthur Kinoy helped earn for the law school a national reputation as a center for public interest law.
Professor Emeritus Arthur Kinoy (l) with Professor Frank Askin in 2002 at the dedication of the new center for the law school’s Eric R. Neisser Public Interest Program
One of his first law students was Frank Askin, a journalist and political organizer whose activism had put him on the FBI’s Communist-watch list at the age of 18. Askin came to Rutgers expecting to return after graduation to journalism, ideally covering the Supreme Court. The law practiced by Arthur Kinoy and others in the civil rights movement changed his mind. In the spring of 1965, when Askin was a 2L, Kinoy argued and won the landmark civil rights case of Dombrowski v. Pfister before the U.S. Supreme Court. In subsequent years, legions of Rutgers students assisted him in the preparation of other landmark Supreme Court victories, most notably United States v. United States District Court and Powell v. McCormack.
The Dombrowski case and other Warren Court decisions showed Frank Askin what effective legal advocacy could accomplish. He began to consider that, as he wrote in Defending Rights: A Life in Law and Politics, “Maybe, I would become a practicing lawyer after all – a public interest lawyer – or, as Professor Kinoy liked to call it, ‘a people’s lawyer’.”
When Askin graduated from Rutgers with highest honors in 1966, he accepted an offer to join the faculty. As Arthur Kinoy, his “legal guru” and now colleague, did, he would be able to combine classroom teaching with handling pro bono cases.
The 1967 rioting in Newark and other cities prompted the law school to examine its roles and responsibilities as a legal institution in a declining urban community. Professor Askin chaired a special faculty committee that recommended adoption of an equal opportunity policy to increase minority admissions.
Subsequent to the creation of the Minority Student Program, the law school turned its attention to making legal education more relevant to public life and a transformed student body. Arthur Kinoy, in addition to trail-blazing litigation, wrote powerful articles that impacted legal thought and legal education. His article on “The Present Crisis in American Legal Education” (24 Rutgers L. Rev. 1, 1969) helped drive the growth of clinical legal education not only at Rutgers but across the country. In 1970 the Rutgers faculty, including Professor Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Askin’s Civil Procedure teacher, voted unanimously to establish an extensive clinical program. Quoting from Kinoy’s law review article, the faculty mission statement described the goal of the program as producing a “new breed of lawyers characterized by their compassion, competence and commitment to the cause of equal justice and positive social change.”
When Arthur Kinoy went on leave for the 1970-71 academic year, he asked Frank Askin to take over his seminar in advanced constitutional problems. The seminar often involved cases from the docket of the Center for Constitutional Rights, giving students experience with real cases and clients. With Kinoy’s encouragement, Askin saw the opportunity to incorporate some of his own outside litigation on behalf of the ACLU into the curriculum, giving students who had been volunteering their assistance academic credit for their efforts. He obtained a grant to establish a law office at Rutgers called the Constitutional Litigation Clinic which, since 1970, has been his home base at the law school.
Inspired by Arthur Kinoy’s vision of training law students to use the law to create a better society, Professor Frank Askin has been the constant voice of and advocate for the Rutgers–Newark clinical program for four decades. On April 3, the law school will honor both men and celebrate the clinical program that has launched the careers of many prominent public interest lawyers, provided invaluable practical experience to students now in private and corporate practice, helped establish numerous important legal precedents, and provided high-quality legal representation to thousands of underserved individuals, causes, and communities.