Alan Dershowitz dishes about Hobby Lobby, O.J. Simpson and the Constitution

The legendary and unpredictable Alan Dershowitz spent an hour speaking to a sold-out audience at the National Constitution Center on Thursday, discussing everything from the Hobby Lobby case, to the O.J. Simpson trial, to the meanest client he ever defended.


National Constitution Center president Jeffrey Rosen interviewed Dershowitz, the proud Brooklyn native who has been called “the nation’s most peripatetic civil liberties lawyer.” His past clients included Simpson, Claus von Bulow, Leona Helmsley, Anatoly Sharansky and Mike Tyson.

Rosen noted that at one time, when both men were testifying on Capitol Hill about the Bill Clinton impeachment proceedings in 1998, Dershowitz managed to block Rosen from a front-page Washington Post photo when he started making arm gestures.

It wasn’t Dershowitz’s only time in the national and legal spotlight. At the age of 25, Dershowitz was a professor at Harvard, after he clerked at the Supreme Court for Justice Arthur Goldberg. It was as a clerk that Dershowitz did research for Goldberg that was part of the concurring opinion in the famous New York Times v. Sullivan case that established the modern free press.

Among the anecdotes told by Dershowitz from his new book, “Taking The Stand: My Life In The Law,” were the following:

– Dershowitz was a C student at Yeshiva University High School, but five years after his graduation he was the top student in his class at Yale Law School. He credits summer camp for giving him confidence in school.

– He thinks the decision made by President Clinton’s attorneys to allow him to give a deposition about his personal life was the worst one made by counsel in the 20th century

–Although he was hired to handle Simpson’s appeal, because – in his opinion—Simpson’s lawyers believed their client would lose, he randomly popped into court on the day Simpson tried on the glove – and he was sitting next to Simpson when the event occurred.

–He’s proudest of his defense of Sharansky; He says Leona Helmsley was the meanest client he ever defended and he eventually would only be seen with her in court

–Dershowitz’s relationship with the Scalia family goes back to his days as a student at Brooklyn College, when he was a liberal student and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s father, Eugene Scalia, was a conservative language professor.

–Dershowitz says Chief Justice John Roberts is the best lawyer in America

–He also believes the Supreme Court will decide the Hobby Lobby case on narrow grounds, and that closely held corporations with religious beliefs will benefit from the ruling, but not publicly owned companies.

–Dershowitz says public figures pay a steep price for the New York Times v. Sullivan decision, but the price would be much steeper if politicians could sue anyone who criticized them

If you want to watch video of the entire event, you can use the YouTube player below or click on the following link:

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