Nadine Strossen has written, lectured, and practiced extensively in the areas of constitutional law, civil liberties, and international human rights. From 1991 through 2008 she served as president of the American Civil Liberties Union, the first woman to head the nation’s largest and oldest civil liberties organization. Professor Strossen retains leadership positions with the ACLU as a member of its National Advisory Council and Co-Chair of its Campaign for the Future.
The National Law Journal has twice named Professor Strossen one of “The 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America.” In 1996, Working Woman Magazine listed her among the “350 Women Who Changed the World 1976–1996.” In 1997, Upside Magazine included her in the “Elite 100: 100 Executives Leading The Digital Revolution.” In 1998, Vanity Fair Magazine included Professor Strossen in “America’s 200 Most Influential Women.” In 1999, Ladies’ Home Journal included her in “America’s 100 Most Important Women.” In 2005, Professor Strossen was honored by the University of Tulsa College of Law and the Tulsa Law Review, which made her scholarly work the subject of their Fifth Annual Legal Scholarship Symposium titled “Nadine Strossen: Scholar as Activist.”
Professor Strossen’s writings have been published in many scholarly and general interest publications (more than 250 published works). Her book, Defending Pornography: Free Speech, Sex, and the Fight for Women’s Rights (Scribner, 1995), was named by The New York Times as a “Notable Book” of 1995 and was republished in 2000 by NYU Press, with a new introduction by the author. Her coauthored book, Speaking of Race, Speaking of Sex: Hate Speech, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties (NYU Press, 1995), was named an “outstanding book” by the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights in North America.
Professor Strossen graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Harvard College (1972) and magna cum laude from Harvard Law School (1975), where she was an editor of the Harvard Law Review. Before becoming a law professor, she practiced law for nine years in Minneapolis (her hometown) and New York City.
Question: Why does opinion of the A.C.L.U. seem to split along party lines?
Nadine Strossen: I am not sure that there actually is a partisan divide if you talk to people who…and I don’t mean to sound at all condescending…but working with members of the Supreme Court across the entire ideological spectrum, I know that there is enormous respect for the ACLU not only from Justice Ginsburg who worked for the ACLU before she became a federal court judge, but also you may be surprised from Justices Thomas [Phonetic] and Scalia [Phonetic], who never worked for the ACLU before joining the federal bench, but who really respect what we are trying to do even if they disagree on particular issues. I have a letter that I cherish from Justice Scalia who is a friend of mine, but this was when we had first met and he said something about I really respect your principled adherence to…and he always has to have a little dig…so, it was … I really respect your principled adherence to your "sometimes incorrect." Maybe he had even said often incorrect… positions, but I know that you sometimes do that at great cost in terms of publicity or economics in terms of support, but you are doing it because that is what you believe the principles calls for and if you look at articles that have been done about supreme court justices and which briefs they read and give credence to, the wait…there is just an overwhelming support for the conclusion that after the US government, the ACLU has the greatest credibility including in the chambers of the justices who can be expected to come out differently because they believe that we are making the strongest possible argument that would have to be refuted in any case, but all of them agree with us on some issues. Likewise, if you talk to members of Congress, some of the most conservative Republicans really, they all work with us on some issues. They all want our support where we agree and given that we are strictly…I haven’t said…I haven’t had a chance to say this yet strictly nonpartisan and nobody would dispute that we never and never have and never will endorse or oppose a candidate, an official, a party or group; rather we take positions on an issue by issue basis, issuing praise or criticism as the case might be and there is literally nobody with whom we don’t strongly agree on some issues and strongly disagree on others and fortunately we have enough influence that those…that they all want us to work with them on the issues where we agree. So, I think if you talk to the real and there is also I have to say this… there is also real difference between how people operate in directing interactions with let us say a lobbyist or lawyers or other leaders versus what they say in their fund raising material. I mean I have had this discussion quite a few times with Jay Sekulow, who is the Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, the litigating arm of the Christian coalition and we collaborate on so many issues, free exercise of religion, freedom of speech for anti-abortion protesters, even some of the post 09/11 privacy issues where many conservative groups have been allies of the ACLU and yet you read his fund raising letters or you listen to his radio show, and he is demonizing the ACLU. So, I think that to some extent I am not a Pollyanna, but I do have [Inaudible] campaign activist without that [Inaudible], but I think it has to…the inflated criticism that you hear in some public arena such as let us televised debates or fund raising letters, some political speeches, where people are playing to their own audience trying to get a raise out of them, but I think you have to see the ACLU bashing as a compliment, that people see us as being very effective that we sometimes use that effectiveness on issues that they disagree with and so, attacking ACLU can become a synonym for attacking gay rights, reproductive freedom, religious freedom, you name…the hot abortion women's rights.
Recorded On: 2/14/08