Melvin Wulf, Transformative Civil Liberties Advocate, Dies at 95

Melvin Wulf Transformative Civil Liberties Advocate Dies at 95 | ltc-a

Melvin Lawrence Wulf was born on November 1, 1927 in Brooklyn and moved with his family to Troy, New York near Albany when he was 8 years old. His father, Jack, owned a business that made men’s suits and coats. His mother, Vivian (Hurwitz) Wulf, was a housewife.

Mr. Wulf, intending to join the family business, attended Lowell Textile Institute in Massachusetts for three years. But in 1950 he transferred to Columbia University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in general studies in 1952.

After graduating from Columbia Law School in 1955, he spent two years as an attorney in the Navy. He joined the ACLU in 1958 as assistant general counsel and became general counsel four years later.

In one of Mr. Wulf’s cases, Healy versus James, argued in the Supreme Court that Central Connecticut State College (now University), in New Britain, had violated students’ First Amendment rights by refusing to let them form a local chapter of the Left Students for a Democratic Society. The school said it feared disruption from the group. In 1972 the court unanimously affirmed the right of students to form the chapter.

In another case, Bigelow versus Virginia in 1975, The court ruled, 7-2, on behalf of a Virginia newspaper editor-in-chief that his constitutional rights were violated when he was convicted of printing an ad for legal out-of-state abortion services at a New York clinic York.

After leaving the ACLU, Mr. Wulf formed a law firm with Mr. Levine and Ramsey Clark, the former United States Attorney General. (Ms. Peratis joined them several months later.) The firm won a Supreme Court case against a Long Island school district’s ban on books and successfully defended two authors against defamation charges advanced by the Church of Scientology. But with high expenses and other factors, the company disbanded after five years.