|Jonathan Askin ’90 with his parents at the April 2009 conference, part of the law school’s Centennial celebration, marking 40 years of clinical legal education at Rutgers.|
“I applaud the exceptional generosity of Frank and Marilyn Askin, who in their remarkable careers have done so much to increase access to justice for New Jersey residents and communities,” says Rutgers President Richard L. McCormick. “With their gift to the clinical legal program, they are helping to sustain a fundamental component of the public service mission of the University.”
“Long before it became the fashion,” notes Dean John J. Farmer, Jr., “this law school demonstrated that clinics can provide an essential bridge between legal theory and practice, while simultaneously advancing the law school’s obligation to serve the cause of justice on behalf of the larger community. The extraordinary generosity of Frank and Marilyn Askin will help perpetuate this distinguishing characteristic of Rutgers School of Law–Newark.”
The Askins, who have been married for almost 50 years, have made their gift at a critical time for clinical education. “In the current atmosphere of cost-cutting,” they explain, “we must preserve clinical legal education, which may be the first to go because of the professor-to-student ratio.”
The contributions of Frank Askin to the success and influence of the Rutgers legal clinics during his more than four decades at the law school were celebrated at the April 2009 conference “The Legacy of Arthur Kinoy and the Inspirational and Collaborative Dimensions of Clinical Legal Education: Honoring 40 Years of Clinics at Rutgers–Newark.” Arthur Kinoy – legendary civil rights lawyer, Rutgers law professor, and Askin mentor – was honored posthumously for inspiring the careers of many public interest lawyers. Leaders of the private and public bar and of clinical legal education described their clinic work and the impact of Askin and other Rutgers clinical professors as transformative.
Appointed to the faculty upon graduating from Rutgers School of Law–Newark in 1966, Frank started the Constitutional Litigation Clinic in 1970. Since then, as he wrote in the 1997 memoir Defending Rights: A Life in Law and Politics, the clinic “has been home base for me. I had found the best of all possible worlds for a public lawyer – being paid as a law professor to handle exciting constitutional cases that I would have gladly taken for free.” He has also kept busy as the longest-serving general counsel of the American Civil Liberties Union. “When I became a GC in 1976, one of my co-general counsel was now Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who had also been my teacher and colleague at Rutgers Law School.”
Though she wouldn’t describe the law school as “home base,” Rutgers has been an essential part of Marilyn Askin’s family life and career as well. Son Jonathan, a clinical professor at Brooklyn Law School, is a 1990 graduate of his parents’ alma mater. Adjunct Professor Askin has taught seminars in Elder Law and Social Welfare Legislation at the law school for the past 26 years.
“Long before it became the fashion, this law school demonstrated that clinics can provide an essential bridge between legal theory and practice, while simultaneously advancing the law school’s obligation to serve the cause of justice on behalf of the larger community. The extraordinary generosity of Frank and Marilyn Askin will help perpetuate this distinguishing characteristic of Rutgers School of Law–Newark.”
Further, Marilyn’s support for clinical education is rooted as much in her own experiences as it is in her husband’s commitment to train Rutgers students to become advocates for social justice. “When I was graduated from Rutgers Law School in 1970,” she recalls, “I was ill-prepared to represent those whose lack of access to lawyers was what drove me to law school in the first place. During my last year, there was only one clinical offering, which I was unable to take because it was taught by Frank. I had to learn Evidence from a professor who had never practiced in a courtroom, Tax by a professor whose accountant filled out his tax forms, Trusts and Estates by a professor who had never met clients who needed such documents. I didn't know how to draft a complaint, much less what a complaint looked like, and had to learn my craft on the backs of the vulnerable, the poor, the dispossessed, the voiceless, who had traditionally been denied access to counsel.”
Both Askins have received numerous awards for their professional achievements and public service, including the law school Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumnus Award to Frank in 2001 and the Alumni Association’s Fannie Bear Besser Award for Public Service to Marilyn in 2005. Before phasing out her elder law practice to become president of AARP-NJ, Marilyn devoted her legal career to law in the public interest. Her positions included director of Senior Citizens Legal Services for 15 years. Since 1966, Frank has combined the teaching of constitutional law with the active defense of civil liberties, litigating, with his clinic students, many groundbreaking cases. “Clinical education at Rutgers for the past 40 years has changed the face of the bar,” he observes, “and attracted students hoping to serve the public interest rather than the interest of financial institutions seeking to make money without going to jail.”
In the 2009 book You Can Tell It to the Judge . . . and Other True Tales of Law School Lawyering, edited by Frank, Rutgers School of Law–Newark faculty members explain how clinics use live clients and current issues to train students to represent the public interest and reform the law while learning the tools of their trade. With their generous gift, the Askins have helped to assure that the Rutgers clinics remain on the cutting edge of clinical legal education.