Frank Askin, Fierce Defender of Civil Liberties, Dies at 89


Frank Askin, who enrolled in law school when he was 31 and devoted the next 50 years to defending the civil liberties of Americans suspected of being disruptive radicals, died on July 1 at a hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He was 89.

The cause was cardiac arrest, his son Jonathan said.

Collaborating with law student volunteers and often with the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, Mr. Askin won rulings that barred the state police from arbitrarily stopping and searching “longhaired travelers” on public roads during the 1960s; granted protesters the right to distribute leaflets at shopping malls; and required the F.B.I. to purge its investigative files on a 15-year-old high school student who had written to the Socialist Workers Party to gather information for a political science course.

He also won the rights of residents to challenge the rules of their homeowners’ associations and of the homeless to have access to public libraries.

After dropping out of college in Baltimore to become a community organizer and journalist, Mr. Askin was admitted to Rutgers Law School in New Jersey. He joined the faculty immediately after graduating in 1966 and taught there for 53 years. He was the founder of the Rutgers Law Constitutional Litigation Clinic (now the Constitutional Rights Clinic).