“How did Harvard Law School behave in the McCarthy witch hunts? With sickening cowardice,” accuses the latest edition of CounterPunch, a leftist political newsletter. The publication included a piece by Jonathan Lubell ’54 recounting his experiences at the school during the anti-communist inquisition spearheaded by Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s. Called before the House Committee on Un-American Activities to testify about their anti-Korean War activities as undergraduates at Cornell, Lubell and brother David (also ’54) asserted their Fifth Amendment rights. The law school, facing pressure to demonstrate its patriotic bona fides, put pressure on the brothers to testify – going so far as to ponder their expulsion.
Students threatened with the diminution of their organizations – and fearing for their legal careers – allegedly cooperated with the administration. The brothers were told they were not welcome as members of the Law Review – despite their purported qualifications – and were even ostracized by fellow law students, who feared association with them even years after the episode. The Harvard Legal Aid Bureau also has a sketch of the incident on its website; threats to the Bureau from then-Dean Erwin Griswold ’28 S.J.D. ’29 resulted in the brothers’ shunning by the Bureau, of which Jonathan had already become a member, as well. The brothers were symbolically readmitted to the Bureau in the 1970s.