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September 23, 1988 - Image 24

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-09-23

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His clients include Edwin
Meese and Jodie Foster, but
Washington's Nathan Lewin is
best known as an advocate for
observant Jews.



hen the attorney general of the
United States got into trouble
with the law last year, he called
Nathan Lewin to defend him.
And so far it has paid off.
For despite all the controversy and
negative publicity surrounding the case of
Edwin Meese 3rd, to date it is Lewin who
has prevailed by achieving an attorney's
primary goal: He has kept his client from
being indicted.
Heady stuff defending the nation's top
law enforcer? Just another day's work for
Lewin, 52, a dapper, gray-bearded Ortho-
dox Jew who has made his reputation as
one of the most respected lawyers in a city
overloaded with them by combining a bril-
liant legal mind with a fierce passion -for
And it is that advocacy, channeled into
Jewish causes, that has distinguished
Lewin in the national Jewish community
— though his positions often clash with
the Jewish establishment. What makes his
career unique is that in addition to his full-
time private practice, where his rates are
reported to be $300 an hour, he has been
a leading props. lt, primarily on a pro




bono basis, for religious freedoms in
general and Orthodox Jewry in particular.
He is a founding member and key force •
behind the National Jewish Commission
on Law and Public Affairs (COLPA), a
volunteer group of about 600 attorneys
and social scientists established about 25
years ago to defend the legal rights and
observances of Orthodox Jews. Lewin
spends up to 20 percent of his time on pro
bono cases — an extraordinarily high rate
for a name partner in a major law firm.
Lewin says he chooses cases that he feels
are important and where he can make a
contribution. Over the years he has consis-
tently chosen and played a pivotal role in
cases raising issues of religious freedom,
from drafting the provision of the federal
Civil Rights Act that protects religious
observances of private employees, to
defending an Air Force' chaplain who
sought to wear a yarmulke on duty.
The yarmulke case was one of about two
dozen that Lewin has argued before the
Supreme Court. He lost that one, but most
recently won on behalf of his client, the
Chasidic-owned electronics supplier, 47th
Street Photo, arguing that gray markets

Nat Lewin at his desk (one of two) in his spacious Georgetown office. On wall
at left, a map of the Holy Land, one of several hundred in Lewin's collection.

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