Alan Morton Dershowitz (born September 1, 1938) is an American political figure and criminal law professor at Harvard Law School. Dershowitz is known for his extensive published works, left-wing political views, work as an attorney in several high-profile law cases, and staunch support of Israel.
Dershowitz was born in Brooklyn, graduated from Yeshiva University high school and Brooklyn College. At Yale Law School, he was first in his class and editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal. After clerking for Chief Judge David Bazelon and Justice Arthur Goldberg, he was appointed to the Harvard Law faculty at age 25 and became a full professor at age 28, then the youngest in the history of Harvard University (the record has since been surpassed by Noam Elkies).
He successfully defended Claus von Bülow on a charge of attempting to murder his wife with an injection of insulin, a case dramatised in the film Reversal of Fortune (1990) starring Glenn Close, Jeremy Irons, and Ron Silver as Dershowitz.
Dershowitz was also a member of the "dream team" of defense lawyers working for O. J. Simpson.
In 1983 the Anti-Defamation League awarded Mr. Dershowitz the William O. Douglas First Amendment Award for his "compassionate eloquent leadership and persistent advocacy in the struggle for civil and human rights." Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, who presented the award, was quoted as saying, "If there had been a few people like Alan Dershowitz during the 1930s and 1940s, the history of European Jewry might have been different."
Dershowitz has however come under fire for advocating the issuing of warrants for the torture of suspected terrorists. He has said that in "ticking bomb" cases -- situations in which "a captured terrorist who knows of an imminent large-scale threat refuses to disclose it" -- the use of torture would be justified in order to save many innocent lives. Many disagree with this, stating that torture is immoral, often ineffective, and highly illegal.
In the early 2000s Dershowitz was asked to leave The Last Word radio show on Ireland's Today FM when during a live phone in link he began verbally abusing journalist Robert Fisk and interrupting attempts by Fisk to speak. The presenter of the show, Eamon Dunphy, previously a fan of Dershowitz, pronounced himself "perplexed" by what he said were Dershowitz's attempts to silence someone he disagreed with. Radio listeners, many of them critics of Fisk, rang the show to complain about Dershowitz's behaviour, accusing him of "bullying" and "bigotry."
In September 2003, shortly after the publication of Dershowitz's The Case for Israel, Norman Finkelstein accused its author of plagiarism, noting that dozens of quotations in that book resembled, without attribution, passages quoted by Joan Peters in her From Time Immemorial -- itself a work that Finkelstein and others had criticized, harshly, for poor scholarship. See Dershowitz_Finkelstein affair for more information.
Dershowitz has recently written about Saddam Hussein's upcoming trial, and his name has been floated as a possible lawyer for the former Iraqi dictator.
- 2004: Rights From Wrongs: A Secular Theory of the Origins of Rights
- 2004: America on Trial: inside the legal battles that transformed our nation
- 2003: America Declares Independence
- 2003: The Case for Israel (ISBN 047146502X)
- 2002: Shouting Fire: Civil Liberties in a Turbulent Age
- 2002: Why Terrorism Works: Understanding the threat, responding to the challenge
- 2001: Supreme Injustice: How the High Court Hijacked Election 2000
- 2001: Letters to a Young Lawyer
- 2000: The Genesis of Justice: ten stories of biblical injustice that led to the Ten Commandments and modern law
- 1999: Just Revenge (fiction)
- 1998: Sexual McCarthyism: Clinton, Starr, and the emerging constitutional crisis
- 1997: The Vanishing American Jew: in search of Jewish identity for the next century
- 1996: Reasonable Doubts: The Criminal Justice System and the O.J. Simpson Case (ISBN 0684830213)
- 1994: The Abuse Excuse: and other cop-outs, sob stories, and evasions of responsibility
- 1994: The Advocate's Devil (fiction)
- 1992: Contrary to Popular Opinion
- 1991: Chutzpah
- 1988: Taking Liberties: a decade of hard cases, bad laws, and bum raps
- 1985: Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case
- 1982: The Best Defense
- Alan Dershowitz: "Foolish liberals who are trying to read the Second Amendment out of the Constitution by claiming it's not an individual right [are] courting disaster by encouraging others to use the same means to eliminate portions of the Constitution they don't like." (unverified)