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2022.05.25: Michael Letwin Oral History @Activist Video Archive

The Red Tide (1971-1981)
Michael Z. Letwin
Alita Zurav Letwin (1932-2020)
Leon Letwin (1929-2015)

1997.03.19 – Leon Letwin Resume – OCR

Download in PDF format: 1997.03.19 – Leon Letwin Resume – OCR_Redacted

Raw text:



March 19, 1997

In addition to the UCLA courses taught through 1993 (see Resume), I taught Civil

Procedure at the UCLA Law School during 1994, 1995 and 1996.

In respect to Professional Activities, I have (together with Richard Wasserstrom) completed a death penalty appeal to the California Supreme Court (People v. Sims) and a Petition for a

Writ of Certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court. Mr. Wasserstrom and I are now engaged in another death penalty appeal to the California Supreme Court in People v. Sturm.

I have made a check mark before each item in the attached resume that more or less bears directly on the subjects of Criminal Law or of the death penalty in the United States.

Leon Letwin



.. .. . . :. -r. . :.: : :~.. :.I. : :.::,IU CLSAC HOOFLL AW

NAME: Leon Letwin



2226 Manning Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90064

December 29, 1929


Universityo f Chicago,P h.B., 1950

University of Wisconsin, LL.B., 1952

Harvard University, LL.M., 1969


Legally related employment:

Private practice of law, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 1952-54: 1957-62

Teaching Fellow, Harvard University, 1963-64



Associate in Law, 1964-65

Acting Associate Professor of Law, 1965-68

Professor of Law, 1968-


Date No. ~


Yr. 1965-66 100. CONTRACTS


Yr. 1966′”67 14~. PROCEDURE

F-W 1966-67 211. EVIDENCE


Yr. 1967-68 145. PROCEDURE


w 1968 211. EVIDENCE

F 1968 211. EVIDENCE














~1969 145. PROCEDURE 6


F-W 1969-70 100. CONTRACTS 8



s 1970 211. EVIDENCE 5

F-W 1971.. 7 2 14S. PROCEDURE 6

.. .

June 4, 1993



§1 .. 65


§C • 77

§A -lOO·


§C – 77





§2 -112


§3 – 66


§1 – 88

§1 .. 81

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L. Letwin • resume 2

F 1971 211. EVIDENCE 5 108



F 1972 211. EVIDENCE s 167

W-S 1973 145. PROCEDURE 6 §4 – 86

~ 1973 121. CRIMINAL LAW II 3 §3 – 86

F-W 1973-74 145. PROCEDURE 6 §4 – 97

F 1973 211. EVIDENCE s §2 -157

~ 1974 121. CRIMINAL LAW II 3 §2 • 80 w 1975 211. EVIDENCE s §2 • 83 s 1975 206. CONSTITUTIONAL AWI I 3 95 s 1975 309. SEMINAR CONSTITUTIONAL


1975 206. CONSTITUTIONAL AWI l3 3 ll8

197S-76 145. PROCEDURE 6 §1 – 86

1976 211. EVIDENCE 5 48

1976 211. EVIDENCE 5 160

1976-76 145. PROCEDURE 6 §4 – 1S

1977 148. CONSTITUTIONALA W I 4 §1 – 66

197i 121. CRIMINALL AWI l ~., §4 .. 88


INSTITUTIONS 2 9 w 1978 211. EVIDENCE s 123 Yr. 1978-79 14S. PROCEDURE s §3 – 80


s PROCEDURES IS. YEAZELL 2 16 1978 211. EVIDENCE 3 §1 • 74 s 1979 211. EVIDENCE 3 §1 – 74 F-S 1979-80 14S. CIVIL PROCEDURE 5 §3 – 86 s 1980 211. EVIDENCE 3 109 }: 1980 145. CML PROCEDURE 5 §3 – 99 i-,} 1981 211. EVIDENCE 3 §1 • 98 1981 503. SEMINAR/CRIMINALLA W 2 8

F 1981 Sabbatical Leave s 1982 211. EVIDENCE 4 §2 -106

F 1982 145. CMLPROCEDURE s §2 – 83 s 1983 5.64. SE~NAR-EVIDENCE 2 12 s 1983 211. EVIDENCE 3 119 F 1983 14S. CMLPROCEDURE s §4 • 79 s 1984 211. EVIDENCE 4

F 1984 145. CIVILP ROCEDURE 5 §1 – 82 s 1985 211. EVIDENCE 4 §1 • 92

F 198S 211. EVIDENCE 3 §1 • 111 F 1986 211. EVIDENCE 3 §2 – 63 s 1986 Sabbatical Leave

p 1986 145. CIVILP ROCEDURE s §1 – 74 s 1987 211. EVIDENCE 4 §2 .. 12S

. . . . . . .. . .. .. i.t,.,’. ·.;J·,. :.·1•1; .. ~ .··. · .r,. : UCLA,~. . C111H1 “‘II ‘FL L W A ………. •••••.• w \,/\I\,/

L. Letwin – resume

Yr. 1987-88 145. CIVIL PROCEDURE 6

s 1988 211. EVIDENCE 4



s 1989 211. EVIDENCE §2 4

F 1989 145. CIVIL PROCEDURE §2 5

s 1990 Absence of Leave

F 1990 211. EVIDENCE §2 4

s 1991 145. CIVIL PROCEDURE §10-12 5

1..—r 1991 S03. SEMINAR • CRIMINAL LAW 3

F 1991 120. CRIMINAL LAW I §7-9 4

s 1992 Sabbatical

J__:;,– 1992 120. CRIMINAL LAW I §4-6 4

s 1993 211. EVIDENCE §2 4


Admissions and Standards Committee, 1966-68, 1968-69 (Chair), Fall 1985.

Special Comminee on Minority Group Admissions, 1966-68 (Chair).

Committee on First-Year Curriculwn 1967-68.

Law School Grading Revision Committee, 1968-69.

Standards Committee, 1971-72; 1973-74; 1975-76; 1990-91.

Curriculum Committee. 1965-66; 1972-73 (Chair); 1974-75; 1982-83 (Chair).

LEOP Committee, 1976-77.

AppointmerusC ommittee,1 977-79;1 979-80( Chair); 1983-85:1 989-90.

Student-FacultyR elationsC ommittee,1 980-81( Chair); 1981-82{ S); 1986-87( Chair).

Admissions Reading Subcommittee. 1980-81.

Externship Cormnittee (Chair), 1987-88; 1991-92 (S).

Advisor, National Lawyers Guild, 1987-88.

Placement Committee. 1988-89.

Public Interest Committee, 1992-93 (Chair).


Doctoral Committee (Psychology), 1979-81.

Doctoral Committee (Education), 1981-82.


Committee on Equal Opponunity (Chair), 1968-72; 1973-74.

University Welfare Committee, 1968-69.

Statewide Committee on University Welfare, 1968-70.

Committee on Status of Women and Equal Opponunity. 1972-73, Chair).

Ad Hoc Affirmative Action Conunittee, 1972-73.

Ad Hoc Committeeto Reviewt he In ResidenceP rofessorS eries, 1977-78.

Privilegea nd Tenure Committee,1 977-80,1 978-79( Chair); 1979-80; 1981-83.

Statewide Senate Privilege and Tenure Committee, 1979-82.

Legal Advisor to U.C. Santa Cruz Privilege and Tenure Committee,

in connection with hearings in two cases before that Committee, 1982-83.














L. Letwin – resume 4

Grievance Procedure Review Committee, 1987-88; 1988 (Chair).

Academic Personnel Procedure Committee (Zabin Committee). 1987-88.

Privilege and Tenure Grievams’ Committee, 1992-93.


Chancellor’sF aculty-StudentS teering Committeeo n MinorityR ecruitmenta nd Curriculum,


Chancellor•sS teering Committeeo n Ethnic Programs Task Force. Summer, 1968.

HearingO fficero n a non-academiacp peal,M arch-April1, 969.

Faculty Advisory Committeet o the Afro-AmericanC enter, 1969-70,1 975-76.

Chancellor’s Conunittee on University Goals, 1969-70.

Chancellor’s Affirmative Action Coordinating Council for Campus Equal Opportunity

Programs, 1971-72.

Chancellor•Cs ommittee on Status of Women, 1972-74.

Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Affirmative Action, 1976-78 (Chair, Winter 1978).

Affiliated faculty member of Graduate School of Education, 1978-81.

Special Hearing Committee to decide recommendations in relation to medical school charges

again.sat facultym ember,F ebruary 1984.

Committee to conduct Five-year Review of Ethnic Centers. 1984-85.

Ad hoc Personnel Review Committee, 1986-87 (Chair); 1987-88 (Chair).


Wisconsin Bar Association.

California Bar Association.

Associationo f AmericanU niversityP rofessors.


Associationo f AmericanL aw Schools:

Committee on Minorities, 1968-68.

Subcommitteoe n Curriculuma nd MinorityG roups, 1968-69.

Curriculum Study Project, 1969-70.

Panel Member, AALS Convention, December1 968–MinorityS tudents and the Law.


Faculty Member, Harvard Law School Special Summer Program to encourage

Negro college students to undertake careers in law (Summer, 1966).

Member. Board of Directors, Los Angeles Neighborhood Legal Services Society, Inc. 1966-


Director,L egal EducationO pportunityP rogramo f Southern California, 1968.

L—Member, City Attorney’s Advisory Committee on Criminal Procedures~ 1973-74.

Director, Council on Legal Education Opportunity 1977 Summer Institute (UCLA).

Board Member, Student Press Law Center. Washington, D.C., 1977 .. 80.

Appeared as attorney before California Supreme Coun in three cases of public importance:

~a) Pitchess v. Echeveria, 11 Cal. 3d S31 (1974) (upheld discoverability of prior

complaints against police charging brutality, in a battery against police officer


. . . . . . ·:-·.. .··• •· . · · ·r — .•• , UCLAS CH,. . ,.. W . .. ~. .· :. ,.: “.... ;. , ...,. :, Ou•1L1F LA

L. Letwin • resume 5

b) Bright v. L. A. Unified School District, 18 Cal. 450 (1978) (affirming the

right of public school children to distribute independent ( ”underground 1


newspapersw ithoutp rior censorshipb y schoolo fficials),

California v. McKeller, hearing granted before Californian State Court (issue:

the constitutionalityo f the Californias tatutoryr ape law in light of itS

discriminatoryc riminalizationo f sexuala ctivityf or the male).

~pointed to represent, together with Richard Wasserstrom, a death row inmate in his appeal

to the California Supreme Court, February 1988 {People v. Sims). Case pending.


Series of lectures on Constitutional Law, University of Guadalajara, Mexico, October, 1966 .

.b za”co ..d irectorw ith ProfessorK ennethG rahamo f the Los Angelesp ortiono f a nationals tudys ponsored

by the Georgetown University Criminal Law Center on the preliminary hearing in criminal

cases, 1967.

Participant in Conferenceo n Educationo f UnderprivilegedP ersonsf or the Legal Profession

sponsored by the Office of Economic Opportunity, Legal Services Program, May 15-17.

1967. Washington~ D.C.

Speaker, Law School Forum: “Civil DisobedienceD: isqualificationfo r Membershipi n the Bar?”,

February 22, i968.

Lecturer to Chilean students on State Department tour, February 271 1968.

Participant,A rrowheadC onferenceo n 11Rights and Responsibilitieos f Members of the Campus

Community”; Panelist. “Problems Under the Present System of Student Conduct Disciplinary

Procedures,” 1968.

Conference Director, Conference of California Law Schools, ”Minority Studerus and the Law

Schools/ UCLA, November 1968.

Panel member, Upstairs. “Violence as a Method of Social Change, 11 January 17, 1969.

Moderatoro f discussiong roup, Los AngelesD emocraticP any Conference”, PoliticalP oliciesT oward

Present Forms of Dissent on Campus,” February 8, 1969.

Conference Director, Conference of California Law Schools, at UCLA, November 1968, ”Minority

Students and the Law Schools.”

Participant, 24th All University Faculty Conference on “Urban Crisis” at UCR. March 23-25, 1969.

Speaker, “Should There Be Preferential Treatment for Minority Citizens?”, at Valley Jewish

Community Temple, May 30, 1969.

Panel member, Western Conference of Law Schools, “Students Power and Participation, 11 March 28-

29. 1969.

Consultant and Panel Member to CLEO Conference, Atlanta, GA., March 1S. 1969.

”Free Press and High School Newspapers, How Much Freedom Should They Have?”, Constitutional

Rights Foundation, Law Day Conference, 1973.

Lecture on press censorship, NationalA ssociationo f Journalism,T eachers and Students. Marriott

Hotel, Los Angeles, April 4, 1975.

Panel on Student Rights, ACLU, April 14, 1975.

Panel on ..T he ConstitutionG oes to School,” ConstitutionaRl ights Foundation, Law Day Conference,

May 3, 197S.

Lecture on Free Press and Expression, Student Rights-Conference, ACLU, May 17, 1975. ·

. . . . .. .. . t;: ,. : .i ~ \f : ~ C·J UCAT SCHQiiti’F’,L AW –·-········-~· J., \I \I

L. Letwin – resume

Colloquium: Rights of Students, UCLA Teaching Colloquium, May 19. 1975.

Law SchoolC ommencemenAt ddressa s “Professoro f the Year, “June 15, 1975.

ParticipantD, iscussiono n~ Case, N.B.C., Channel4 , October1 6, 1976.

Participant. symposium on 11The Student Press/ KHJ, December 27. 1976.

Colloquium: The ~ Decision,U CLAG raduateS choolo f EducationC olloquium.N ovember3 ,


Debate on~ Decision, ACLU, Westwood,S eptember2 5. 1977.

Speaker,1 1LegalF orcesA ffectingD ecisionM aking”i n conferenceo n ”ForcesA ffectingD ecision

Making by SchoolB oards and Administrators”s ponsoredb y USC School of Educationi n

~ cooperationw ith L.A. CountyB oard of Education,J anuary2 8, 1978.

…,.,…-~peakeLr,a w Women’sU nion, UCLA, Rape Evidence,O ctober2 7, 1980.


Over the years, consultant to a number of law firms on various points of law, including the law of

procedure and evidence. In June, 1980, testified as an expert on California procedural law in

a High Court trial in London. Consulted with local civil liberties organizations on cases of

mutualc oncern. Representedc riminald efendantso n a pro bono basis.

Intermittentl aw consultantshipsw ith individuals( non-corporaten, on-business),1 981-82.

Smalla mounto f legal counsellingt o private partieso n miscellaneoulse gali ssues, 1983-SS.


Nominatedb y Law StudentB ar Associationf or DistinguishedT eachingA ward, 1967.

Law School “Professor of the Year, 0 1975.

UCLA Schoolo f LawR utter Prize for DistinguishedT eaching, 1983.


Approximately$ 85,000 grant from councilo n Legal EducationO pportunity to finance

LEOPSC program, 1968.

S33 ,375 grant from Council on Legal Education Opportunity to finance UCLA/CLEO

Programl, 97i.

• • · • · • – • • ~.-•••••.••.• U\.iw•””I ~l.i&l\.,l,,’l.. Vr .Lu’i4~

L. Letwin – resume



EvidenceL aw:C ommentarv,P roblemsa ndC ases, MatthewB ender( 1986), 687 pp.

EvidencLea w: Commentarv,P roblemsa ndC asesT, eacher’sG uide, MatthewB ender( 1986).

EvidenceL awiC ommentaryP. roblemsa ndC ases1, 988S JnU2plemMenat,t thewB ender.

EvidenceL aw: Commentary.P roblema nd Cases,1 991S upplementM, atthewB ender.

AssiiJlillentisn TrialP ractice, Little. Brown and Co., (Editor), 1964.


“The Representationo f Indigentsi n CriminalC ases,” 23 ~ 6, 1963.

“Communist Registration Under the McCarran Act and Self Incrimination,” 1951 Wisconsin Law

Review 704.

“Canadian Consumer Credit Legislation, 11 BostonC ollegeIn d. and CommL.a w Review. Vol. 8, pp.

201-224, Winter ’67.

“Waiver of Objectionst o Former Testimony,” UCLAL aw ReviewV ol. 15, pp. 118-lSS, 1969.


.. _:§s>mPe erspectiveso n MinorityA ccesst o LegalE ducation.”2 Experimenta ngI nnovation1t 969.

~ith K. Graham, 11The Preliminary Hearing in Los Angeles: Some Field Findings and Legal-Policy

Observation,” in two articles, 18 UCLA Law Review, No.4, pp. 636-757 and 18 UCLA Law

Reyiew, No. St pp. 916-961 (1971).

”Regulation of Underground Newspapers on Public School Campuses in California,” 22 UCLA Law

Revjew1 41-218 (1974).

“AdministrativeC ensorshipo f the IndependentS tudentP ress-Demiseo f the Double Standard?”,2 8

S,C. Law Review S6S-S85 (1977); reprinted in 2 Childrens Rights Report (October 1977)

(ACLU Juvenile Rights Project, New York).

“After Goss v. LcmezS: tudentC lassificatioans SuspectC lassification? 11

t 29 StanforLda w Review

627-662 (1977).

~ducation and the ConstitutionalR ighcso f SchoolC hildren1,1 1 ThinkingT, heJ ournal of Philosophv

for Children 11-19 (1978).

”Unchaste Character, 11 Ideology and the California Rape Evidence Lawst S4 So. California Law

Review 35-89 (1980).

0Impeaching Defendantsw ith Their Prior Convictions: Reconsideringth e DangerousP ropensitieso f

Character Evidencea fter Pegplev . Castro,1 8 U.C. Davis Law Journa6l 81-719 (1985).

Entry on “EvidentiaryP rivilege”f or Encyclqpedioaf the AmericanC onstirution6, 61-662( Mac

Millan, 1986).

“TeachingF irst YearS tudents: The Inevitabilityo f a PoliticalA genda,” 10 NovLaa w Journal 645-

646 (1986).


With R. Wasserstrom, “National Goals for Expanding Minority Group Entry into the Legal

Profession: Some Proposals to the CLEO Council,” October l, 1968.

Director’s Report of the Los AngelesC LEO Program( sponsoredb y the Law Schoolso f UCLA,

Loyola and USC), 1968. .

2019.08.25: Leon Wofsy, 1921-2019

Leon Wofsy Obituary

Leon Wofsy – scientist, activist, author, and cherished husband, father, grandfather and friend – died on August 25, 2019, peacefully and surrounded by family two days after a stroke. Leon was born in Stamford, CT in 1921. He was raised by parents who, as Leon described them, were deeply committed to building “a gentler world where wars and exploitation would be unthinkable”. Leon shared their hopes and values throughout his life. As a young man, he was leader of the Labor Youth League, which made him a target during the McCarthy period. During that time, and throughout the remainder of his life, Leon demonstrated uncommon courage, honesty, and a willingness to sacrifice in pursuit of the ideals of democracy, racial equality, social justice, and peace.

After almost two decades devoted primarily to radical political activism, Leon returned to school in 1958, received a PhD in chemistry at Yale, and joined the faculty at the University of California in Berkeley in 1964. During his years at Berkeley, he distinguished himself as a scientist through pioneering research on the use of antibodies to deliver effective therapies directly and specifically to the site of disease. His work proved to be visionary in helping to lay the foundation for the later development of ‘precision’ therapies that are now widely used in the treatment of cancer, immunologic diseases, and many other disorders. Also while at Berkeley, Leon was a leader among the faculty in supporting students during the Free Speech Movement, opposing war, fighting apartheid, supporting progressive movements in Latin America, and increasing the representation of women and minorities in the sciences and the broader academic community.

After his retirement from UC Berkeley, Leon wrote extensively on topics related to domestic and foreign policy, including two books, numerous articles, and a blog that was still active in the final month of his life. He never ceased hoping for, and fighting for, a better world. When he could march, he marched. When he could lead, he led. When he could teach, he taught. And when age took him off the front lines, he wrote and continued to inspire.

Leon was the most loyal of friends. He loved music and sports and nature and especially family. He was predeceased by his wife of 67 years, Rosalind Wofsy, and by his daughter Carla. He is survived by his wife, Gail Weininger, his son David, and grandchildren Danielle, Kevin, Susan, and Grace. A memorial gathering will be planned soon. For those who are so inclined, donations in Leon’s honor may be directed to Partners in Health or to the charity of your choice.

Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Aug. 30, 2019

Panel Celebrates Affirmative Action Pioneers (UCLA Law Magazine, Fall 2018)

UCLA Law Magazine Fall 2018 - Panel Celebrates Affirmative Action Pioneers

Panel Celebrates Affirmative Action Pioneers (UCLA Law Magazine, Fall 2018)

From left: Professor Laura Gómez, Miguel Espinoza, Richard Wasserstrom and Wallace Walker at a panel on the history of affirmation action at UCLA Law.

UCLA Law’s remarkable history as pioneer of affirmative action in higher education was the focus of a special presentation that convened in September 2018 at the law school. Nearly 100 members of the law school community participated in a four-hour program inspired by the 2017 book The Integration of UCLA School of Law, 1966-1978: Architects of Affirmative Action.

Written by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Miguel Espinoza, the book traces the creation and effects of UCLA Law’s trailblazing Legal Education Opportunity Program (LEOP) through first-person accounts from more than 80 professors and students — including Espinoza’s father, former L.A. Superior Court Judge Peter Espinoza ’80.

Moderated by professor Laura Gómez, the panel included Espinoza; current faculty members Carole Goldberg and Tony Tolbert; former professor Richard Wasserstrom, who co-founded LEOP; current student Daniel Johnson ’19; alum Wallace Walker ’70, who was in LEOP’s first graduating class; and Mia Yamamoto ’71, who pushed for the inclusion of Asians in LEOP and co-founded the Asian/Pacific Islander Law Students Association at UCLA.

Speakers also celebrated the legacy of a central figure in the book and in the life of UCLA Law, the legendary, late professor Leon Letwin, who spearheaded the LEOP effort. Several members of Letwin’s family traveled to join the event, which was co-sponsored by UCLA Law’s Critical Race Studies program and David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy.

Architects of Affirmative Action Panel: September 15, 2018 at UCLA Law School

Screen Shot 2018-07-17 at 10.15.14 PMFree registration here.

Now available: The Integration of the UCLA School of Law, 1966-1978, Architects of Affirmative Action, by Miguel Espinoza

Screen Shot 2018-06-25 at 9.07.07 PM


In 1966, a group of UCLA law school professors sparked the era of affirmative action by creating one of the earliest and most expansive race-conscious admissions programs in higher education. The Legal Education Opportunity Program (LEOP) served to integrate the legal profession by admitting large cohorts of minority students under non-traditional standards, and sending them into the world as emissaries of integration upon graduation. Together, these students bent the arc of educational equality, and the LEOP served as a model for similar programs around the country. Drawing upon rich historical archives and interviews with dozens of students and professors who helped integrate UCLA, this book argues that such programs should be reinstituted—and with haste—because affirmative action worked.

Special discount from publisher through 12/1/18: The Integration of the UCLA School of Law – Promotional Flyer (1)


2015.09.13: Professor Fought For Social Justice (L.A. Times)

Professor Fought for Social Justice (OCR)Screen Shot 2015-09-13 at 8.20.47 PM

2015.09.10: Leon Letwin dies at 85; UCLA law professor, activist and Angela Davis defender (L.A. Times)

Los Angeles Times, September 10, 2015

Leon Letwin dies at 85; UCLA law professor, activist and Angela Davis defender

Although Letwin later backed away from the party, he spent the rest of his life fighting for social justice. In the courts, the longtime UCLA law professor helped win important cases involving the rights of criminal defendants and high school journalists. On campus he helped defend Angela Davis when she was under attack for her militant views.

He also spearheaded affirmative action in law school admissions, years before most public universities embraced diversity as a goal.

“He thought we should make a difference. Many of us weren’t sure about that,” Henry W. McGee Jr., a former longtime UCLA law professor and one of the first African Americans to win tenure at the university, said of the activism that set Letwin apart from colleagues.

Letwin, who died this summer at the age of 85 in State College, Pa., after a long illness, joined UCLA in the early 1960s. With the civil rights movement heating up, he began to press the university to help prepare minority students for law school.

He became the founding director of the Legal Education Opportunity Program of Southern California, which sought to increase the enrollment of blacks and Mexican Americans at UCLA, USC and Loyola law schools. Letwin launched the program in the summer of 1968 with 40 students  who took classes on criminal, constitutional and tort law and interacted with judges, police officers, prosecutors and other lawyers.

“It was truly a radical move,” said Los Angeles Deputy Dist. Atty. Miguel Espinoza, who is writing a book on the effort. “Within a year or two of his hiring, he laid the groundwork for one of the earliest and most expansive affirmative action programs in the nation.”

In operation for a decade, it exposed hundreds of students to the legal profession, including Peter P. Espinoza, a 1980 UCLA law school graduate (and father of Miguel) who later served as supervising judge of Los Angeles County’s criminal courts.

“Leon’s a hero to me because of the impact he had on the law school and the legal profession in general,” Espinoza said in an interview last week.

At Letwin’s memorial service in late August following his July 13 death, Espinoza said he counted about 25 judges and a number of public officials who were admitted to law school after participating in the program.

An expert on evidence law, Letwin also played a major role in Pitchess vs. Superior Court, a 1974 case that established the right of defendants accused of resisting arrest to obtain records relating to complaints of excessive force by a peace officer. The request for such information is now known as a Pitchess motion.

Letwin was born on Dec. 29, 1929 in Milwaukee, where his parents, Bessie and Lazar, settled after fleeing anti-Semitic persecution during the Russian Revolution. As a youth he subscribed to the Communist Party’s Sunday Worker newspaper, the act that drew the attention of the FBI.

At 15, Letwin entered the University of Chicago. He was interested in studying the brain but changed course as the McCarthy-era hunt for Communists and other subversives commenced. “There was a dearth of lawyers defending people who came under McCarthy’s attacks,” Alita Letwin, his wife of 63 years, recalled Monday. “That was the major reason Leon went into law. He felt it was a duty.”

Letwin spent a few years in private practice in Milwaukee, leaving in 1964 to teach at UCLA. He quickly leaped into a number of controversial fights, including defending Davis, a philosophy professor, Communist and member of the Black Panther Party, when Republican Gov. Ronald Reagan advocated her dismissal. Letwin argued in a letter to university officials that firing a faculty member with “divergent views” would make a mockery of academic integrity. With colleague Richard Wasserstrom, he also helped strike down a loyalty oath requirement. Davis was fired in 1970.

A few years later Letwin was one of three attorneys who represented leaders of the Red Tide, a student underground paper, in a case that ultimately went to the state Supreme Court.

Founded in the Letwins’ garage in West Los Angeles by a group of students from nearby University High School, the paper featured radical views on the Vietnam War, abortion and other issues. School authorities barred its distribution on campus, alleging that one of its articles libeled a district employee. In 1976 the court agreed with the students that the school’s efforts to ban the paper amounted to prior censorship.

One of the paper’s leaders was Letwin’s son, Michael, now a public defender in New York.

“The idea we grew up with was you should stand up for what you believe in,” Michael Letwin said. “He would do battle for us with school administration…. That made a huge difference to us.”

Besides his wife and son Michael, Letwin, who retired from UCLA in 1994, is also survived by sons Daniel and David, and five grandchildren.

2015.08.29: Angela Y. Davis: Honor Leon Letwin By Reinstating Steven Salaita

The following message from Angela Y. Davis was presented at the celebration of Leon Letwin’s life, held at UCLA on August 29, 2015.

Angela Davis, 1969

To the Family and Friends of Leon Letwin,

I wish I could be with you in person as you collectively evoke the phenomenal life and legacy of Leon Letwin. Although I am not able to be present today, I do want to offer a few reflections. I knew Leon as a man who helped to inform trajectories of social justice for more than a half century, and specifically as one of the driving forces behind the UCLA campaign that defended my right to teach. Shortly after I arrived on campus, facing a torrent of anti-communism unleashed by the Regents’ decision to fire me, it was Leon, as chair of the Committee on Equal Opportunity, who stepped up to write an official letter to the Vice-Chancellor in which he made the still valid argument that:

“[M]inority candidates will, with some frequency, come with unconventional political backgrounds and views as judged from majority perspectives. Regentally imposed political tests which assault the academic freedom of all will fall upon such candidates with unusual severity. If a faculty member can be fired for entertaining divergent views about the structure of our society and the solutions to its problems, this recruitment will become a mockery, as will our general claim to academic integrity.”

1969.10.20 -- Law Professors Active in Davis Case -- UCLA Law School

As I think back on that period and on the role Leon played in safeguarding my right to teach—along with others in the Law School such as Henry McGee, Michael Tigar, and Dick Wasserstrom, as well as faculty from Philosophy and other Departments—I must say I am very glad that I stumbled into the controversy engineered by the Regents at that particular moment in time. If the lessons Leon taught us about organizing for social justice were invaluable forty-five years ago, they are equally relevant today as we defend faculty members such as Steven Salaita, who continue to come under attack for their divergent views.

steven_salaita_resize (1)Steven Salaita, 2015

There is a reason why I evoke the name and current struggle of Steven Salaita, recently fired by the Trustees of the University of Illinois after tweeting opposition to the attack on Gaza last summer. The very last time I saw Leon, we were both present at the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, linked together once more by the rising efforts to generate solidarity with the Palestinian struggle. He was truly my brother in struggle and I shall never forget him.

Angela Y. Davis, Distinguished Prof. Emerita, UC Santa Cruz

2015.08.29: Program for UCLA Celebration of Leon Letwin (PDF)

Screen Shot 2015-09-20 at 1.40.15 PMDownload: Program (PDF)