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Marvin Earl Frankel

FRANKEL, MARVIN EARL (1920–2002), U.S. jurist. Frankel was born in New York City. After service in World War II, he studied law at Columbia, graduating in 1949. He served as an assistant to the solicitor general of the United States (1949–56) and then joined the New York firm of Proskauer, Rose, Goetz, & Mendelsohn, remaining until 1962 when he joined the faculty of the Columbia Law School.

In 1965 President Lyndon B. Johnson nominated Frankel to serve on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Frankel quickly developed a reputation for great skill in handling complex federal civil litigation. He also became a leader in analysis of the administration of criminal justice. In 1974 he published Criminal Sentences: Law without Order, a landmark study of disparities in criminal sentencing. In 1977 he published Grand Jury: An Institution on Trial, a critical analysis of the history of the grand jury and abuse of the system for political ends.

He resigned from the court in 1978 and returned to the Proskauer, Rose firm for five years. In 1983 he joined the firm of Kramer, Levin, Naftalis, & Frankel, where he was the litigation director until his death in 2002. He became a champion of international humanitarian law, serving as chairman of the board of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights. He criticized the repression of Soviet Jews, the mistreatment of political prisoners by the State of Israel, apartheid in South Africa, and kidnappings and murders by military regimes in Argentina and Zaire.

In the last decade of his life Frankel wrote and litigated about religious liberty in the United States, but this phase of his work was not as distinguished as his advocacy for human rights. In 1994 he published an extended essay on religious freedom, arguing persuasively that officially established or preferred religion is never neutral and always entails preferences for one religious belief over another. Just before he died in 2002, Frankel argued his last case in the Supreme Court, urging the Court to invalidate a program of educational vouchers that included religious schools in Cleveland. The Court sustained this program by a vote of 5–4.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.