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Early life and education
Lewin was law clerk to Chief Judge J. Edward Lumbard of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (1960–1961) and to Associate Justice John M. Harlan of the Supreme Court of the United States (1961–1962). Lewin also served as Deputy Administrator of the Bureau of Security and Consular Affairs at the Department of State. He later served as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice.
Upon leaving government service, Lewin was a founding partner of Miller Cassidy Larroca and Lewin.
Lewin has practiced law in the District of Columbia, New York, the Supreme Court of the United States, all federal appellate circuits, and many United States District Courts. Lewin has engaged in trial and appellate litigation in federal and state courts for more than 45 years.
Assistant to the Solicitor General
While he was an Assistant to the Solicitor General in the Department of Justice under Solicitors General Archibald Cox and Thurgood Marshall, he argued 12 cases before the Supreme Court of the United States.
Lewin's Supreme Court cases included the representation of banks and other commercial interests as well as criminal cases and issues of constitutional law.
In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled in his favor in the case of Zivotofsky v. Clinton, holding that the political question doctrine does not deprive a federal court of jurisdiction to enforce a federal statute that explicitly directs the Secretary of State how to record the birthplace of an American citizen on a Consular Report of Birth Abroad and on a passport.
On April 21, 2014, the Supreme Court granted Lewin's certiorari petition in the follow-up case of Zivotofsky v. Kerry, which concerns the question whether a federal statute that directs the Secretary of State, on request, to record the birthplace of an American citizen born in Jerusalem as born in "Israel" on a Consular Report of Birth Abroad and on a United States passport is unconstitutional on the ground that the statute "impermissibly infringes on the President's exercise of the recognition power reposing exclusively in him".
First amendment cases
Lewin has been a champion in advocating for First Amendment rights and civil liberties. He has successfully argued many cases involving the right to display the Chanukah menorah in a public forum, including two such cases before en banc courts of the Sixth and Eleventh Circuits. Among these cases was County of Allegheny v. ACLU in which the Supreme Court held that the Lubavitch had the right to maintain a menorah on public property in Pittsburgh. He represented an Air Force psychologist in the Supreme Court case testing his constitutional right to wear a yarmulke while on duty. Lewin also represented the Williamsburg Hasidic community in the Supreme Court in its constitutional challenge in 1976 to a racially conscious legislative reapportionment, urging a rule of constitutional law that the Supreme Court accepted 20 years later.
He initiated a lawsuit against Yale University on behalf of Orthodox freshmen and sophomores who could not reside in co-educational dormitories on religious grounds. He brought lawsuits on behalf of Sabbath-observers who were discriminated against in private employment, on behalf of military chaplains who were denied the right to wear religiously motivated beards, and on behalf of Jewish prisoners who were denied kosher food. He was the attorney for the Satmar Kiryas Joel school for handicapped children in defense of a law creating a special public school district for handicapped children in that community, a case that was heard by the Supreme Court in 1994.
Lewin drafted a number of legislative provisions that preserve the constitutional right to freedom of religion including: the provision of the federal Civil Rights Act enacted in 1972 that protects religious observances of private employees, the provision of federal law that enables federal employees to observe religious holidays without financial penalty, the provision of New York's Domestic Relations Law that conditions the issuance of a civil divorce on removal of barriers to remarriage such as the delivery or acceptance of a Jewish religious divorce, and the provision of federal law that entitles servicemen to wear yarmulkes.
In 1974-1975, Lewin was Visiting Professor at the Harvard Law School, and taught Advanced Constitutional Law (First Amendment Litigation), appellate advocacy, and "Defense of White-Collar Crime". Lewin was Adjunct Professor of Constitutional Law at Georgetown Law School and at the University of Chicago Law School, and taught Jewish Civil Law at George Washington University Law School in 1998 and 2001. Lewin also led a seminar in Supreme Court litigation at Columbia Law School.
Between 1982 and 1984, he served as President of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington, and for more than 30 years, he served as the national vice president of the National Jewish Commission on Law and Public Affairs (COLPA). Lewin was president of the American Section of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists from 1992 to 1997. He is currently Honorary President of its successor, the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists.
Lewin's individual clients have included the Lubavitcher Rebbe Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, Attorney General Edwin Meese III, whom he represented while he was serving as Attorney General, President Richard Nixon, Jodie Foster, John Lennon, nursing home owner Bernard Bergman, Congressman George Hansen, Teamsters president Roy Williams, and Israeli war hero Aviem Sella.
Lewin conceded he submitted a picture of Baruch Herzfeld dancing with a non-Jewish woman to an Orthodox rabbinical court as part of his case against him, but insists it was "a minor detail of the case".
In 2014 and 2015, Lewin represented Binyamin Stimler, a co-conspirator of Mendel Epstein, the ringleader of a gang whose purpose was the kidnap and torture of Jewish men in order to force them into granting religious divorces to their wives. Stimler was sentenced to 3 years (39 months) in prison for his role in the plot.
Currently, Lewin practices law together with his daughter Alyza D. Lewin, at Lewin & Lewin, LLP. Lewin & Lewin, LLP specializes in white-collar criminal defense and in federal appellate litigation, and is located in Washington, D. C.
Publications by Lewin
Lewin has written numerous articles on American jurisprudence, politics, and religion. He was an author and Contributing Editor to The New Republic between 1970 and 1991. His articles on law and the Supreme Court have appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Newsday, Saturday Review, The Washington Post, and other periodicals.
In an essay in Sh'ma, Lewin said that suicide bombing could be deterred by a policy of executing parents or other immediate adult relatives of suicide bombers unless the family members could prove that they had tried to dissuade or prevent the suicide bombing or been totally unaware of the bomber's plan. His proposal created controversy in the Jewish community.
- Zivotofsky v. Clinton
- "Zivotofsky v. Clinton". oyez.org. IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law.
- "Zivotofsky v. Kerry". SCOTUSblog.
- ralph (10 December 2009). "Nathan Lewin To Lead Rubashkin Legal Defense Team".
- "Rubashkin sentenced to 27 years". Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
- "The Great Orthodox Merengue Scandal". Tablet Magazine.
- Shortell, David (April 22, 2015) "Orthodox Rabbis Convicted of Conspiracy in New Jersey Kidnap-Divorce Plot", CNN
- (December 16, 2015) "Orthodox Jewish Rabbi Sentenced To Eight Years In Prison For Conspiring To Kidnap Jewish Husbands, Force Them To Consent To Religious Divorces", United States Department of Justice
- "Detering Suicide Killers".