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Peter B. Edelman (born January 9, 1938) is a lawyer, policy maker, and law professor at Georgetown University Law Center, specializing in the fields of poverty, welfare, juvenile justice, and constitutional law. Edelman grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His father worked as a lawyer and his mother worked as a home-maker. Edelman is married to Marian Wright Edelman, president and founder of the Children's Defense Fund.



Edelman received his A.B. in 1958 and LL.B. degree from Harvard University.

Early career

Edelman was a Law Clerk to Supreme Court Justice Arthur J. Goldberg and before that to Judge Henry Friendly on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. He also worked in the U.S. Department of Justice as Special Assistant to Assistant Attorney General John Douglas. Edelman worked as a Legislative Assistant to Senator Robert F. Kennedy from 1964 to 1968, accompanying Kennedy to his meeting with labor leader Cesar Chavez. Edelman also met his wife while in Mississippi with Kennedy to prepare for reauthorization of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964.[1] Following Kennedy’s assassination, Edelman spent brief periods working as deputy director for the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights, issues director for Arthur Goldberg’s New York gubernatorial campaign, and vice president of the University of Massachusetts from 1972 to 1975. During the 1970s, Edeleman also served as chair of the New World Foundation and position held by Hillary Rodham Clinton from 1982 to 1988.[2]

Edelman became director of the New York State Division for Youth in 1975, joined Foley & Lardner as partner in 1979, and served as Issues Director for Senator Edward Kennedy's Presidential campaign in 1980. In 1981, he helped found Parents United in the District of Columbia to empower parents to advocate for educational quality in DC's public schools. Edelman has taught at Georgetown since 1982.

Work in the Clinton administration

Edelman took a leave of absence during President Clinton's first term to serve as Counselor to HHS Secretary Donna Shalala and then as Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. Edelman resigned from the Clinton administration in protest of Clinton signing welfare reform legislation.

In late 1994, Clinton considered nominating Edelman to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that had become vacant with the decision by Abner Mikva to retire from the bench on September 19, 1994 to become White House counsel. However, Clinton feared a difficult confirmation battle—particularly given publicly stated opposition to Edelman's nomination by U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee member Orrin Hatch -- and he backed off, later successfully nominating Merrick Garland to the seat. In 1995, Clinton mulled nominating Edelman to the federal district court in Washington D.C., but in August 1995, he abandoned that possibility as well.[3] The withdrawal came even despite Hatch's stated support for Edelman's nomination. "District court judges don't make policy as much as the judges on the circuit courts do," Hatch told the New York Times. "He's very liberal, but he's also an extremely fine man and I told the White House that I would support him for the district court."[3][4]

Recent work

Edelman has been an Associate Dean of the Georgetown University Law Center. Edelman is currently the board president of the New Israel Fund, and is a board member of the Center for Community Change, the Public Welfare Foundation, Americans for Peace Now, the Center for Law and Social Policy, amongst other nonprofit organizations. He currently serves as chair of the seventeen-member Access to Justice Commission for the District of Columbia, a panel studying ways to provide access to civil legal representation for those who cannot afford it.


  • Harry Chapin Media Award for "The Worst Thing Bill Clinton Has Done"
  • Former United States-Japan Leadership Program Fellow
  • Former J. Skelly Wright Memorial Fellow at Yale Law School

Selected bibliography



  • Reconnecting Disadvantaged Young Men. With Harry J. Holzer and Paul Offner. (Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute Press, 2006).
  • Searching for America's Heart: RFK and the Renewal of Hope (Georgetown University Press 2003).
  • Contributor, Community Programs to Promote Youth Development (Jacqueline Eccles & Jennifer Appleton Gootman eds., Natl Acad. Press 2002).
  • The Future of Social Insurance: Incremental Action or Fundamental Reform? (Peter B. Edelman et al. eds., Nat’l Acad. Soc. Ins. 2002).
  • Searching for America’s Heart: RFK and the Renewal of Hope (Houghton Mifflin Co. 2001, Georgetown University Press 2003).
  • Adolescence and Poverty: Challenge for the 1990s (Peter B. Edelman & Joyce Ladner eds., Center for National Policy Press 1991).
  • And Beryl A. Radin, Serving Children and Families Effectively: How the Past Can Help the Future (Education and Human Services Consortium 1991).
  • A New Social Contract: Rethinking the Nature and Purpose of Public Assistance, Report of the Task Force on Poverty and Welfare, State of New York (Peter B. Edelman contr., State of New York 1986).

Book Chapters

  • "American Government and the Politics of Youth," In A Century of Juvenile Justice, (Ed.s Margaret K. Rosenheim, Franklin E. Zimring, David S. Tanenhaus, and Bernardine Dohrn, 310-38. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002).
  • And Beryl A. Radin, "Effective Services for Children and Families: Lessons From the Past and Strategies for the Future," in Effective Services for Young Children: Report of a Workshop 48 (Lisbeth B. Schorr et al. eds., National Academy Press 1991).
  • Response to Elliot Currie, "Crime and Drugs: Reclaiming a Liberal Issue," in Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Future of Liberalism 89 (John F. Sears ed., Meckler 1991).
  • "Urban Poverty: Where Do We Go From Here?" in The Future of National Urban Policy 89 (Marshall Kaplan & Franklin James eds., Duke University Press 1990).
  • "Creating Jobs for Americans: From MDTA to Industrial Policy," in The Great Society and Its Legacy: Twenty Years of U.S. Social Policy 91 (Marshall Kaplan & Peggy L. Cuciti eds., Duke University Press 1986).
  • And Myrtis H. Powell, "Smoothing the Path From School to Work: A Promising Venture in Structural Change," in The State Role in Promoting Youth Employment 1 (Southern Education Foundation 1986).
  • "What Shall We Do About America's Poor Now ?" in 3 Money (Eleanor Goldstein ed., Social Issues Resources Series 1986).
  • "Institutionalizing Dispute Resolution Alternatives," in Dispute Resolution 505 (Stephen B. Goldberg et al. eds., Little, Brown & Co. 1985).
  • "Re-Visioning Public Responsibility," in Beyond Reagan: Alternatives for the '80s 132 (Alan Gartner et al. eds., Harper & Row 1984).
  • "Work and Welfare: An Alternative Perspective on Entitlements," in Budget and Policy Choices 1983: Taxes, Defense, Entitlements 51 (W. Bowman Cutter, III et al. eds, Center for National Policy 1983).

Journal Articles

  • "Where Is FDR When We Need Him?," 93 Georgetown Law Journal 1681 (2005).
  • "Where Race Meets Class: The 21st Century Civil Rights Agenda," 12 Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law & Policy 1 (2005).
  • "Welfare and the Politics of Race: Same Tune, New Lyrics," 11 Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law & Policy 389 (2004).
  • "The Welfare Debate: Getting Past the Bumper Stickers," 27 Harvard Journal of Public Policy 93 (2003).
  • "Beyond Welfare Reform: Economic Justice in the 21st Century," 24 Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law 475 (2003).
  • "Remarks, D.C. Consortium of Legal Service Providers: Legal Services 2000 Symposium," 5 University of the District of Columbia Law Review 257 (2002).
  • "Succeeding in Uncertain Times: Challenges for Distressed Communities," Keynote address, Reshaping the Fundamentals: Strengthening Community Economies in Turbulent Times, Michigan State University Community and Economic Development Program, East Lansing, MI (July 22, 2002).
  • "Welfare Reform: Where Have We Been, Where Are We Going?" Speech, action/research conference sponsored by the Bryn Mawr College Center for Ethnicities, Communities and Social Policy and the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research, Bryn Mawr, PA, March 1, 2002.
  • "TANF Reauthorization: Is Congress Acting on What We Have Learned?," 1 Seattle J. For Soc. Just. 403 (2002).
  • "Forgotten Stories About Forgotten People," 55 Nieman Reports 29 (2001).
  • Review of The Gentleman from Georgia: The Biography of Newt Gingrich, by Mel Steely, 20 Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 568 (2001).
  • "Poverty and Welfare Policy in the Post Clinton Era," 70 Mississippi Law Journal 877 (2001).
  • Et al., "A Conservation on Federalism and the States: the Balancing Act of Devolution," 64 Alb. L. Rev. 1091 (2001).
  • "Poverty & Welfare: Does Compassionate Conservatism Have a Heart?," 64 Alb. L. Rev. 1073 (2001).
  • "Promoting Family by Promoting Work: the Hole in Martha Fineman's Doughnut," 8 Am. U. J. Gender, Soc. Pol'y, & L. 85 (1999).
  • Panel Discussion: "Arthur J. Goldberg's Legacies to American Labor Relations," 32 J. Marshall L. Rev. 667 (1999).
  • Et al., "A Family Commitment to Families and Children," 37 Fam. & Conciliation Cts. Rev. 8 (1999).
  • "The Impact of Welfare Reform on Children: Can We Get It Right Before the Crunch Comes?," 60 Ohio St. L.J. 1493 (1999).
  • "So-Called 'Welfare Reform': Let's Talk About What's Really Needed to Get People Jobs," 17 L. & Inequality 217 (1999).
  • "Welfare and the 'Third Way'," Dissent 14 (Winter 1999).
  • "Responding to the Wake-Up Call: A New Agenda for Poverty Lawyer,." 24 New York University Review of Law & Social Change 547 (1998).
  • "Opening Address," Symposium: Lawyering for Poor Communities in the Twenty-First Century, 25 Fordham Urb. L.J. 685 (1998).
  • "Introduction," Fiftieth Anniversary Volume: Welfare Reform Symposium, 50 Admin. L. Rev. 579 (1998).
  • "The Role of Government in the Prevention of Violence," 35 Hous. L. Rev. 7 (1998).
  • "The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child: Implications For Welfare Reform in the United States," 5 Geo. J. on Fighting Poverty 285 (1998).
  • "The Worst Thing Bill Clinton Has Done," Atlantic Monthly 43 (1997).
  • "Toward a Comprehensive Antipoverty Strategy: Getting Beyond the Silver Bullet," 81 Geo. L.J. 1697 (1993).
  • "Mandated Minimum Income, Judge Posner, and the Destruction of the Rule," 55 Alb. L. Rev. 633 (1992).
  • "Justice Scalia's Jurisprudence and the Good Society: Shades of Felix Frankfurter and the Harvard Hit Parade of the 1950s," 12 Cardozo L. Rev. 1799 (1991).
  • "Free Press v. Privacy: Haunted by the Ghost of Justice Black," 68 Tex. L. Rev. 1195 (1990).
  • "Japanese Product Standards as Non-Tariff Trade Barriers: When Regulatory Policy Becomes a Trade Issue," 24 Stan. J. Int'l L. 389 (1988).
  • "Corporate Criminal Liability for Homicide: The Need to Punish Both the Corporate Entity and Its Officers," 92 Dickinson L. Rev. 193(1987).
  • "The Next Century of Our Constitution: Rethinking Our Duty to the Poor," 39 Hastings L.J. 1 (1987).
  • "Listen Democrats! Memorandum to the Candidate: How You Can Get Beyond the Old Liberalism Without Becoming a 'Neo'," 2 Tikkun 29 (1986).
  • "Institutionalizing Dispute Resolution Alternatives," 9 Just. Sys. J. 134 (1984).

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b Neil A. Lewis, Clinton, Fearing Fight, Shuns Bid to Name Friend as Judge, The New York Times, (September 1, 1995).
  4. ^ Neil A. Lewis, THE NEW CONGRESS: THE SENATE; New Chief of Judiciary Panel May Find an Early Test With Clinton, The New York Times, (November 18, 1994).

External links


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