Jerome J. Shestack papers, 1944-2011 and undated, bulk 1965-2000
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- Shestack, Jerome J.
- Jerome Shestack was a prominent lawyer and human rights advocate. His papers chiefly document the leadership roles he undertook for social justice organizations such as the American Bar Association, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the International League for Human Rights, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, and many others, and the histories of those entities. Series include extensive correspondence and subject files, organization files, writings and speeches, publications and clippings, as well as a small collection of personal files, photographs, and Shestack's World War II diary. Topics covered in the collection include but are not limited to: the history of the American Bar Association; law and legislation related to international and domestic human and civil rights; American government policies on human rights; Jewish human rights issues; the defense of political dissidents such as Andrei Sakharov; disappeared persons in Argentina; the rights of the mentally disabled; and Shestack's role in standing against the Supreme Court nomination of Robert Bork. Acquired as part of the Human Rights Archive at Duke University.
128 Linear Feet
Approximately 57,000 items
Approximately 57,000 items
- Materials are in English.
- Collection ID:
- Scope and Content:
The papers of Jerome Shestack span the years of 1944 to 2011, and document the leadership roles he undertook for legal and social justice organizations such as the American Bar Association, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the International League for Human Rights, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, the American Jewish Committee, the International Criminal Court, and many others, and the histories of those entities. Series include extensive correspondence and subject files; organization files; writings by Shestack and others, such as reports, editorials, articles, and speeches; publications and clippings; trial testimonies and proceedings; as well as a small collection of personal files, photographs, and Shestack's World War II diary.
The materials provide insights into Shestack's many professional achievements and how his work in the legal profession intersected his passion for human rights. Shestack held leadership roles in many law and human rights organizations, often simultaneously; therefore, the materials also reveal how organizations often collaborated with one another to address human rights from a legal standpoint. A large portion of the material focuses on Shestack's dedication to the law profession through his active roles in the American Bar Association, which includes his position on the 1987 judicial committee against the Supreme Court nomination of Robert Bork, as well as his role as American Bar Association President from 1997 to 1998.
Other materials in the collection demonstrate Shestack's work to promote and defend human rights on a broad international scale. Significant file groups for countries and their associated human rights cases include Argentina, China, Israel, Russia, and South Africa. His particular interests pertaining to human rights include but are not limited to: law and legislation related to international and domestic human and civil rights; American government policies on human rights; Jewish human rights issues; the defense of political dissidents such as Andrei Sakharov; disappeared persons in Argentina and other human rights abuses; the rights of the mentally disabled; and the history of human rights advocacy.
The worldwide respect Shestack gained for his advocacy work is represented in the collection through extensive correspondence and subject files documenting his connections to notable human rights activists and prominent political leaders, including President Jimmy Carter, President George Bush, René Cassin, and Martin Luther King, Jr.
Some audiovisual materials are scattered throughout the collection: a CNBC interview of Shestack as ABA President, International League for Human Rights Awards Dinner cassettes, Wingspread Interview cassettes, a Court TV Bosnia Trial VHS recording, and a recording of the Independent Counsel Symposium. Original media are closed to use; listening or viewing copies must be made for access.
Acquired as part of the Human Rights Archive at Duke University.
- Biographical / Historical:
Jerome J. Shestack was a prominent Philadelphia lawyer known for his extensive work and leadership as a human rights advocate. He was born in Atlantic City, NJ on February 11, 1923. After serving in the Navy during World War II, Shestack received his law degree from Harvard Law School in 1949. He lived with his family in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where he joined Schnader, Harrison, Segal and Lewis LLP as a practicing lawyer in 1955. During his time in law, Shestack was involved in a number of professional law organizations, including the American Bar Association, the International Bar Association, and the International Commission of Jurists. He served on the American Bar Association committee on judicial appointments, notably voting against the Supreme Court nomination of Robert Bork in 1987. He was President of the American Bar Association from 1997-1998.
Throughout his professional career, Shestack served as a human rights advocate for marginalized groups in America and around the world. He held leadership roles in several human rights advocacy groups and organizations, including the International League for Human Rights and the Lawyer's Committee for Human Rights. Through these organizations he advocated for the fair treatment of political dissidents and the mentally disabled. He was also an active member of the American Jewish Committee. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter appointed Shestack as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, where he worked to identify and address the human rights needs of member nations. He served as the Ambassador until Ronald Reagan became president in 1980.
In 1991, Shestack joined Wolf Block Schorr and Solis-Cohen LLP as a practicing lawyer, where he worked until returning to Schnader Harrison Segal and Lewis as a retired partner in 2009. Recognized for his groundbreaking work in law and human rights advocacy, Shestack received the American Bar Association Medal in 2006, the highest honor awarded in the organization.
Jerome J. Shestack died in Philadelphia, August 28, 2011.
Date Event 1923 February 11 Born in Atlantic City, New Jersey to Jewish parents 1943-1946 Served in the US Navy; Wounded on the USS Ticonderoga during World War II 1949 Received Law degree from Harvard Law School 1951 Married Marciarose Schleifer 1955 Joined Schnader Harrison Segal and Lewis LLP in Philadelphia.He served as a practicing lawyer there until 1991. ca. 1960 Joined the American Bar Association ca. 1963 Joined the first Board of Trustees for the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law ca. 1968 Joined the International League for the Rights of Man (later known as the International League for Human Rights) ca. 1970 Joined the American Jewish Committee 1976 Became the Chair of the International League for Human Rights 1979 December 10 Appointed as the US Ambassador to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights by President Jimmy Carter 1980s Advocated against mistreatment of political dissidents, notably Andrei Sakharov 1987 Voted against the Supreme Court Nomination of Robert Bork, deeming him "not qualified" 1991 Joined Wolf Block Schorr and Solis-Cohen LLP in Philadelphia as a practicing lawyer. 1997-1998 President of the American Bar Association 2006 Awarded the American Bar Association Medal 2009 Rejoined Schnader Harrison Segal and Lewis LLP as a retired partner 2011 August 18 Died in Philadelphia
- Acquisition Information:
- The Jerome J. Shestack papers were received as a gift by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library in 2014.
Arranged in the following series: American Bar Association; Organizations; Correspondence; Subject Files; Writings and Speeches; and Print Materials.
- Rules or Conventions:
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Click on terms below to find related finding aids on this site. For other related materials in the Duke University Libraries, search for these terms in the Catalog.
Civil rights -- Law and legislation
Disappeared persons -- Argentina
Dissenters -- 20th century
Human rights advocacy
Human Rights -- Periodicals
Human rights -- Law and legislation
Human rights workers -- United States -- Correspondence
International law and human rights
Jews -- Social conditions -- 20th century
Jews, American -- Correspondence
Judges -- Selection and appointment -- United States
Justice, Administration of -- United States -- 20th century
Lawyers -- United States -- Correspondence
Mental health laws -- 20th century
People with mental disabilities -- Legal status, laws, etc.
Political persecution -- 20th century
Social justice -- United States -- History -- 20th century
World War, 1939-1945 -- Personal narratives, American
Human Rights Archive (Duke University)
ABA Center for Human Rights
American Bar Association
American Bar Association. Commission on the Mentally Disabled
American Bar Association. Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities
International League for Human Rights
Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law
United Nations Commission on Human Rights
United States. Supreme Court -- Officials and employees -- Selection and appointment
Shestack, Jerome J.
Bork, Robert H.
Sakharov, Andreĭ, 1921-1989
Argentina -- Politics and government -- 1955-1983
Soviet Union -- Politics and government -- 1953-1985
United States -- Politics and government -- 20th century
Using These Materials
Collection is open for research.
Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.
Originals of video and audiotape are closed to use. Patrons must request use copies to access the content of the material.
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[Identification of item], Jerome J. Shestack papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University