A recent high-profile case argued before the United States Supreme Court has a strong connection to Case Western Reserve University.
The case, FAIR v. Rumsfeld, involved military recruitment at law schools. The connection was in the person of E. Joshua Rosenkranz, attorney for the law schools and a 1983 Case graduate with a degree in chemistry, summa cum laude.
How did he get from beakers and Bunsen burners to the halls of the nation's highest court? "I loved chemistry, but two concerns drove me from chemistry into law," he explains. "First, after working in research laboratories I saw so much research going to make bad policy. When I urged my mentors to speak out the answer was, 'We're scientists, not advocates.' I realized I was an advocate by nature."
Rosenkranz enrolled in Georgetown University Law Center, where he rose to become editor of the "Notes & Comment" section of the Georgetown Law Journal. Following graduation magna cum laude in 1986, he clerked for Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. and for two judges on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. One of those judges, Antonin Scalia, now sits on the Supreme Court.
After finishing his clerkships, Rosenkranz founded the Office of the Appellate Defender, a public defender office specializing in criminal appeals in New York state courts.
From there he went on to found and become chief executive officer of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, one of the country's leading public interest legal organizations.
It was while he led the Brennan Center that some law school representatives first approached Rosenkranz about challenging military recruitment at law schools. The Solomon Amendment, enacted by Congress in 1995, cuts off all federal funds to universities that do not provide the same access and level of service to the military as to other employers. Many law schools objected to this on the grounds that they will not assist an employer who discriminates on any basis unrelated to merit, and the military discriminates against homosexuals.
Rosenkranz declined to take the case, however, since NYU itself was not eager to be highly visible on the issue. "It didn't feel right for the Brennan Center to be litigating the case without its sister institution out front," he explained.
In 2003 Rosenkranz entered private practice with the law firm Heller Ehrman LLP and was approached again by law school representatives. This time he agreed, even taking the case pro bono (without charge). But there was still one problem. "Every law school wanted the case to be brought, but no one school wanted to be out front. So we created the Forum on Academic and Institutional Rights (FAIR) that could sue on behalf of its members."
Rosenkranz took the case in part because of his feeling that discrimination over sexual orientation is the civil rights battle of this generation. "Here you had academic institutions standing up to the most powerful employer in the world who still discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation," he said. "And the government comes back and says, 'We will come on to your campus. We will discriminate against your students. And you will help us do it.' It was threatening to punish even the most symbolic measures designed to communicate that discrimination is immoral."
As a result of his efforts in the case, Heller Ehrman honored Rosenkranz with its Richard E. Guggenhime Pro Bono award, given to attorneys in recognition of significant pro bono and community service work.
Rosenkranz's practice is an eclectic mix of fields which includes commercial litigation, securities, corporate governance, antitrust, federal preemption, and products liability. The list of clients he represents includes some of the best-known names in international business, such as Phillip Morris USA, Bank of America, Merck KGaA Sony, Visa, and National Semiconductor.
The broad range of clients and types of litigation, he says, are part of being an appellate lawyer. "What appellate lawyers market is the skill to simplify complicated fact patterns and convoluted legal doctrines to judges who are probably not experts in the field of law presented. So appellate lawyers tend to specialize in that skill set, but not in any particular area of law."
When not working—"a rare situation," he says—Rosenkranz enjoys reading and spending time with his children, ages 6, 4, and 2
Rosenkranz thinks his Case education and training in chemistry gave him an advantage in law school, and legal practice, compared to students who majored in the humanities. "I was very accustomed to reading dense texts very slowly and methodically, focusing on the details. That is now cases have to be read, especially by someone new to the law. Later, the training I had in chemistry was valuable because I was undaunted by science or experts of any sort.
"Appellate practice has everything I've always loved about the law," he adds. "I grapple with extraordinarily complicated puzzles. I get to tell stories. And every once in a while, I get to make a difference in the world—or at least try to."
Posted by: Heidi Cool, January 25, 2006 11:00 AM | News Topics: Alumni
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