Senator Arlen Specter to Teach at the University of Pennsylvania Law School

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Media Contact: | | January 4, 2011

Philadelphia, PA –  Arlen Specter, the longest-serving U.S. Senator in Pennsylvania’s history, will join the University of Pennsylvania Law School as an adjunct faculty member, starting in the fall of 2011. Specter, who left the Senate this month after 30 years in office and is a University of Pennsylvania alumnus, will teach a course on the relationship between Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court, focusing on separation of powers and the confirmation process.

Specter was first elected to represent Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate in 1980 and has served five consecutive terms. He has served on the Senate Judiciary Committee since 1981, including as Chairman from 2005 to 2007, and has participated in the confirmation hearings of 14 U.S. Supreme Court nominees and recommended 112 Pennsylvanians who have served on the federal district or circuit courts. His work on the Judiciary Committee has included writing significant legislation dealing with constitutional law, civil rights, and privacy.

In addition to his work on the Judiciary Committee and other committee appointments, Specter was Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence from 1995 to 1997, and has served as a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, leading an increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health from $12 to $30 billion a year since 1996.

“We are delighted to welcome Arlen Specter to Penn Law,” said University of Pennsylvania Law School Dean Michael A. Fitts. “Arlen’s knowledge of the inner workings of the government and lawmaking is second to none. The insight he brings from his career in public service, particularly as a leader on judicial issues, will be invaluable to our students as they prepare for their own careers in the law.”

“I’m excited to join a vibrant academic community that’s on the cutting edge of today’s most important legal issues,” Specter said. “As I transition to a new phase of my career, teaching at Penn Law will be a fantastic opportunity to join an outstanding community of scholars, continue my work in public policy and the law, and impact the next generation of lawyers and policy makers.”

“Arlen Specter is among Penn’s most accomplished alumni,” said Amy Gutmann, President of the University of Pennsylvania. “Over the course of his illustrious career, he has advanced higher education, most notably by championing federal funding for pathbreaking research. I am very pleased that Penn students will have the unique opportunity to learn about law, constitutionalism, and democratic governance from one of our nation’s most eminent, experienced, and courageous leaders.”

Before his election to the U.S. Senate, Specter served as assistant district attorney and as district attorney of Philadelphia, where he prosecuted corruption cases against Philadelphia magistrates and the Teamsters. From 1963 to 1964, Specter was assistant counsel to the Warren Commission investigating the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, where he originated the single-bullet finding. He began his legal career with the Philadelphia firm of Barnes, Dechert, Price, Meyers & Rhoads; after his term as district attorney he returned as a partner to what was then the firm of Dechert, Price & Rhoads (now Dechert LLP). Before law school, he served as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations during the Korean War. 

During his tenure in the Senate, Specter championed Pennsylvania’s economy and took an active interest in foreign affairs, meeting with dozens of world leaders as well as supporting appropriations to fight the global HIV/AIDS pandemic and backing free trade agreements between the U.S. and under-developed countries.

He was diagnosed with stage IVB Hodgkin’s disease in 2005 but continued working full-time in the Senate and is currently in good health. His wrote a book about the experience, Never Give In: Battling Cancer in the Senate. A longtime moderate Republican known for his independent views, he switched to the Democratic party in 2010.

Specter also wrote a previous book, Passion for Truth: From Finding JFK’s Single Bullet to Questioning Anita Hill to Impeaching Clinton, as well as published numerous articles on the law during his career. He is currently working on a third book, which will focus on his party-switching experience and the gridlock in Washington, D.C.

A native of Russell, Kansas, Specter earned his bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the University of Pennsylvania in 1951, and his law degree from Yale University in 1956.


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