Norman Redlich, the second of two children of Pauline and Milton Redlich, who owned a small company manufacturing plumbing supplies and gardening equipment, was born in the Bronx on 12th November, 1925.
After serving in the Second World War he attended Yale Law School before joining the New York University School of Law faculty in 1960. He was promoted to full professor in 1962, and served as the director of the Law School's Project on Urban and Poverty Law. He was also a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
In 1963 J. Lee Rankin appointed Redlich as his special assistant on the Warren Commission in the investigation of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Gerald Ford provided J. Edgar Hoover with information about the activities of staff members of the commission. Hoover ordered that Redlich's past should be investigated. He discovered that Redlich was on the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee, an organization considered by Hoover to have been set-up to "defend the cases of Communist lawbreakers". Redlich had also been critical of the activities of the House Committee on Un-American Activities.
This information was leaked to a group of right-wing politicians. On 5th May, 1964, Ralph F. Beermann, a Republican Party congressman, made a speech claiming that Redlich was associated with the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. Beermann called for Redlich to be removed as a staff member of the Warren Commission. He was supported by Karl E. Mundt who said: "We want a report from the Commission which Americans will accept as factual, which will put to rest all the ugly rumors now in circulation and which the world will believe. Who but the most gullible would believe any report if it were written in part by persons with Communist connections?"
Gerald Ford joined in the attack and at one closed-door session of the Warren Commission he called for Redlich to be dismissed. However, Earl Warren and J. Lee Rankin both supported him and he retained his job. According to The New York Times: "In that job, he and several other staff lawyers, including Arlen Specter, the future Pennsylvania senator, devised the single-bullet theory - which explained how Gov. John B. Connally of Texas and President Kennedy could have been struck almost instantaneously at one point, without there having been a second gunman."
In 1975 Redlich became Dean of New York University School of Law. He also served as Chair of the American Bar Association's Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar (1989 to 1990). Redlich was a member of the House of Delegates of the American Bar Association.
Norman Redlich, who was married to Dr. Evelyn Grobow Redlich, for 61 years, died in June, 2011.
Considering these circumstances, it is amazing-shocking-incredible, to find that although competent and unimpeachable legal and investigative counsel can be found in any community in the land, the Warren Commission has on its staff as a $100-a-day consultant a member of the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee - an organization cited by both the House Committee on Un-American Activities and the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee.
Prof. Norman Redlich, on the national council of the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee - cited by House and Senate committees as an organization "to defend the cases of Communist lawbreakers" - is currently employed at $100 a day, for the Warren Commission. And as recently as April 13, 1964, just a few weeks ago, this "consultant" had his name listed in an advertisement appearing in The New York Times with other members of the cited Emergency Civil Liberties Committee - an advertisement condemning the Un-American Activities Committee...
Strangely, little has been said or written about the Redlich hiring, although it certainly impresses me as one of the greatest miscarriages of appointive judgment in the history of American Government. I call upon those in responsible positions to dismiss this patently unqualified "consultant" from the Warren Commission staff and to investigate and make public facts concerning how Redlich managed to get hired and keep his job despite his known Communist-front affiliations.
We want a report from the Commission which Americans will accept as factual, which will put to rest all the ugly rumors now in circulation and which the world will believe. Who but the most gullible would believe any report if it were written in part by persons with Communist connections? I predict with certainty that Communist leaders around the world will have a detailed report on such testimony long before it reaches the American public - since once a Government body is infiltrated by one with Communist sympathies or connections, history has shown that the pipeline to Moscow is fast and it is filled with classified material.
The Commission cleared Redlich on the grounds that there was no evidence of actual Communist Party membership. Standard government security criteria include many other disqualifying factors - among them, "unsuitability and pressure risk" and "Sympathetic association with subversive individuals or groups".
The Belin Theory was that the city bus transfer in Oswald's shirt pocket might well have been his basic "passport" to Mexico. Oswald had been reported to have been in Mexico two months earlier and having gotten there by bus. Belin also was aware of the Warren Commission testimony given by Nelson Delgado, who had served in the Marine Corps with Oswald. Delgado had recalled Oswald once telling him that the best way to escape from authorities in the United States to Russia was by way of Mexico, where a plane could be caught to Havana, and then another plane to Moscow.
The Belin Theory was innovative and extremely logical but suffered a fatal axing within the Warren Commission when Belin figured out that Oswald probably was in the act of escaping to Mexico when encountered by officer Tippit on Tenth Street. That injected a foreign connection into the escape which blew the Warren Commission's mind. Mexico. Cuba. Russia. Belin had practically invented World War III.
It was Norman Redlich who put the ax to the Belin Theory. Redlich had a great deal of control over what would appear in the Warren Report. Redlich, remember, had survived the communist witch-hunt aimed at him on Capitol Hill three months earlier when the granting of his security clearance had been threatened. And now Redlich wanted to keep from stirring up any more problems for Earl Warren, so he argued that Belin had come up with nothing more than supposition, which had no place in the Warren Report. Belin argued in return that the Commission had a public obligation to disclose the existence of Oswald's possible escape plan, even if it were removed from chapter six of the Report and relegated to the 31-page section in the appendix of the Report, entitled "Speculations and Rumors." But Redlich instead saw to it that the Warren Report made no attempt to explain why Oswald, the fast-moving young man on the run, appeared to be heading directly toward Jack Ruby's apartment with a gun. Instead, the Warren Report simply said, "There is no evidence that Oswald knew where Ruby lived."
Norman Redlich, a quiet luminary of the New York legal community who pioneered the pro bono defense of indigent death row inmates and who, as a staff member of the Warren Commission, helped develop the so-called single-bullet theory to explain how President John F. Kennedy was killed by a lone gunman, died Friday at his home in Manhattan. He was 85.
Throughout his career, Mr. Redlich exerted an important but inconspicuous influence in many areas of public life, frequently serving as playmaker to other people’s star.
He helped Jane Jacobs defeat Robert Moses’ plan to build a four-lane highway through Washington Square Park in the late 1950s - brokering an unlikely alliance between Ms. Jacobs, the urban theorist, and Carmine De Sapio, the Tammany boss, that eventually saw not only Moses’ plan killed, but all vehicular traffic banished from the park.
He negotiated the deal in which the City of New York bought and renovated Yankee Stadium in 1971, when the team’s owners had threatened to leave and Mayor John V. Lindsay resolved to make them stay.
As dean of the New York University School of Law, when Mr. Redlich sought to deepen the school’s commitment to the training of public interest lawyers, he recruited the most renowned capital defense lawyer in the country at the time, Anthony G. Amsterdam, whose appointment as head of the school’s advocacy program in 1981 received more press than Mr. Redlich ever did as dean.
The low-profile work that would come to give Mr. Redlich his highest profile, however, was his appointment in 1963 as executive assistant to the Warren Commission’s chief counsel, J. Lee Rankin. In that job, he and several other staff lawyers, including Arlen Specter, the future Pennsylvania senator, devised the single-bullet theory - which explained how Gov. John B. Connally of Texas and President Kennedy could have been struck almost instantaneously at one point, without there having been a second gunman.
The widespread doubt cast on the theory in later years caused Mr. Redlich to tell a Congressional subcommittee reviewing the commission’s findings in 1977, “I think there are simply a great many people who cannot accept what I believe to be the simple truth, that one rather insignificant person was able to assassinate the president of the United States.”
By 1960, when Mr. Redlich began teaching constitutional and tax law at N.Y.U., he had started to work without compensation on a series of appeals for death row inmates at Sing Sing. He would eventually enlist the help of a dozen fellow law professors and students in saving five men from the electric chair between 1960 and 1963.
He told Life Magazine in a 1963 interview, a decade before various court decisions halted most executions, that his ultimate goal was to end capital punishment. But he added: “I can’t wait for New York to abolish capital punishment. When I’ve saved a man from the chair, at least I’ve abolished capital punishment for him.”
Mr. Redlich took a leave of absence in 1966 to join the Lindsay administration as executive assistant to Mr. Rankin, who was named corporation counsel. In 1972, when Mr. Rankin retired, Mr. Redlich was appointed his successor.
During his tenure as dean of the N.Y.U. law school, from 1974 to 1988, Mr. Redlich significantly upgraded the school’s standing, said the current dean, Richard L. Revesz. He vastly expanded the library, introduced new programs, built dormitories and “brought extraordinary faculty to this law school,” Mr. Revesz said. One of those faculty members, Professor Amsterdam, referring to Mr. Redlich’s lifelong, outspoken opposition to the death penalty, said, “His style in this and in every one of the important fights he fought was selfless, steadfast, unsensational.”