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About Nathan Lewin

About Nathan Lewin

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Nat Lewin.jpgNathan Lewin has engaged in trial and appellate litigation in federal courts for more than 55 years.  He currently practices law together with his daughter, Alyza D. Lewin, at Lewin & Lewin, LLP.  Lewin was a founding partner of Miller, Cassidy, Larroca & Lewin, one of the nation’s foremost litigation “boutiques” for more than thirty years.  While in government service in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, he served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice, and, before that, as Deputy Administrator of the Bureau of Security and Consular Affairs (the rank of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State) in charge of visa, passport and other consular matters at the Department of State.  Between 1963 and 1967, Lewin was an Assistant to the Solicitor General in the Department of Justice under Solicitors General Archibald Cox and Thurgood Marshall.  During this time he argued, for the United States, twelve cases before the Supreme Court.  In private practice he has argued in the Supreme Court another sixteen times, for a total of 28 oral arguments in the Supreme Court.  His Supreme Court cases have included the representation of banks and other commercial interests, as well as criminal cases and issues of constitutional law.

Lewin received a B.A. degree from Yeshiva College, summa cum laude, in 1957.  His government service began after his graduation, magna cum laude, from Harvard Law School in 1960, where he was Treasurer of the Harvard Law Review.  He was law clerk to Chief Judge J. Edward Lumbard of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (1960-61), and then law clerk to Associate Justice John M. Harlan of the Supreme Court of the United States (1961-62). 

Lewin has also taught at leading national law schools.  In the 1970’s he was an Adjunct Professor of Constitutional Law at Georgetown Law School.  In 1974-1975 he was Visiting Professor at the Harvard Law School, teaching Advanced Constitutional Law (First Amendment Litigation) and the first formal course ever given in a national law school on the subject of “Defense of White-Collar Crime.”  He also taught a seminar on Appellate Advocacy.  In 1994, Lewin gave a semester-long seminar on “Religious Minorities in Supreme Court Litigation” at the University of Chicago Law School and has been teaching that seminar at Columbia Law School since 1996.  He also taught a course in Jewish Civil Law at George Washington University Law School for several years. He was a Contributing Editor to The New Republic, a weekly magazine of opinion published in Washington, D.C., where he commented on Supreme Court decisions and other legal subjects between 1970 and 1981.   His articles on the law and on the Supreme Court have appeared invarious newspapers and periodicals.

Mr. Lewin was recognized by the DC Legal Times as one of "Washington's Greatest Lawyers of the Past 30 Years" and was ranked Number 2 of “Washington’s Best Lawyers” by the Washingtonian. He has been voted one of America’s Best Lawyers for 30 years, and was included in the 2013 edition of that volume in five distinct practice categories, including Appellate Litigation, Defense of White-Collar Crime, First Amendment Litigation, and “Bet-the-Company” Litigation.

Lewin’s individual clients have included Attorney General Edwin Meese, III, former president Richard Nixon, actress Jodie Foster, musician John Lennon, nursing home owner Bernard Bergman, Congressman George Hansen, Teamsters president Roy Williams, and Israeli war hero Aviem Sella.

In May 2000 Lewin initiated the first lawsuit under a 1992 federal law giving American citizens who are the victims of terrorism a right to collect damages from those responsible for terrorist acts.  On behalf of parents of a 17-year-old killed by Hamas terrorists in Israel, he sued U.S. charities that were providing financial and other support to Hamas.  The position taken in his lawsuit was approved by the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in a decision that is now a landmark case on the liability of financers of terrorism.  In December 2001, President

Bush directed the seizure of the assets of the Holy Land Foundation, which was the principal defendant in Lewin’s lawsuit.  A Chicago jury returned a verdict of $52 million against the defendants in that lawsuit, which was trebled under the federal statute for a total judgment of $156 million. 

Lewin successfully represented Agudas Chasidei Chabad (Lubavitch) in a federal lawsuit over ownership of the library collected by the Sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe. He is also representing Chabad in current litigation against Russia to bring to the United States the library of the Fifth Lubavitcher Rebbe. He represented Chabad in the Supreme Court case that approved display of a Chabad Chanukah menorah in front of Pittsburgh’s City Hall and has represented dozens of local Chabad rabbis in successful requests to display Chanukah menorahs on public property. Litigation in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and in Atlanta, Georgia, resulted in rulings favorable to Chabad menorahs by 15 and 11 federal appellate judges respectively. Lewin also represented the Satmar village of Kiryas Joel in a U.S. Supreme Court case over public funding of a school for handicapped children.  

Lewin’s recent litigation in the Supreme Court includes a 12-year pro bono effort to apply a federal law that entitles American citizens born in Jerusalem to designate “Israel” as their place of birth on U.S. passports. The controversy was heard twice by the Supreme Court which ultimately held by a 6-to-3 vote that the President has the exclusive constitutional power to decide whether Jerusalem is within Israel, and since President Obama had not granted such recognition, the law was unconstitutional.

Lewin has defended the process of kosher slaughter in court and the constitutionality of New Jersey’s and New York’s kosher enforcement law.  He has defended (against constitutional challenge) and won in a federal court of appeals and in New York’s Appellate Division the right of communities in New Jersey and New York to construct an eruv.  He also won a federal appeal entitling the Young Israel of Bal Harbour, Florida, to conduct services over the opposition of local zoning authorities. In 1980 Lewin was retained as Special Counsel by the Department of Justice Special Investigations Unit to prosecute the case of Valerian Trifa, a leader of the Romanian Iron Guard, a fascist organization which was responsible for the murder of many Jews.  Trifa thereafter surrendered his U.S. citizenship and residence.

Lewin also presented the winning argument in K-Mart Corp. v. Cartier, where the Court held that trademarked imported goods could lawfully be sold in the United States at discounted prices.  His other arguments in the Supreme Court while in private practice involved jeopardy assessments, government custody of seized goods, gun control laws, and various constitutional issues arising under the First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. In the Supreme Court he also represented an Air Force psychologist who claimed a constitutional right to wear a yarmulke together with his Air Force uniform. After the Court rejected his constitutional claim by a 5-to-4 vote, Lewin drafted a federal law that now entitles military personnel to wear yarmulkes with their uniforms.

Lewin drafted an “agunah” law enacted by the New York legislature in 1983 that requires husbands seeking a divorce in New York to give a “get” (Jewish divorce) to their wives. He also drafted the 1973 amendment to the 1964 Civil Rights Act that requires “reasonable accommodation” to the religious observance of private employers, and a “compensatory time for religious observance” law that requires federal government agencies to permit employees who must take leave on religious holidays to make up for their absence with overtime before or after the religious holiday.

Lewin was born on January 31, 1936, in Lodz, Poland. His grandfather was the chief rabbi of Rzeszow and also served as a member of the Polish Legislature ("Sejm"). His father was the youngest member of the Lodz City Council in pre-war Poland and represented Agudath Israel in the United Nations Economic and Social Council.  Lewin first arrived in the United States, via Japan, in 1941.  He served as President of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington (1982-1984) and as President of the American Chapter of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists. Lewin is married to Rikki Gordon (a free-lance photographer), has two daughters, Alyza Doba (an attorney who is his law partner) and Na’ama Batya (a photographer and videographer), and six grandchildren.

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