Listen: Edgar Cahn '56 on Community Empowerment and the Law

Edgar Cahn '56 discusses his 50-plus year career as a public interest lawyer in both the criminal and civil justice arenas. Read more about his talk in the Daily Gazette.

In 1964, Cahn and Jean Camper Cahn '57 co-authored a famed Yale Law Journal article that directly led to federally funded legal services for the poor, which today provides legal counsel to more than a million citizens annually. The Cahns pioneered legal clinics for the poor, now staples in law schools throughout America.

Cahn's social justice work includes the invention of Timebanking – a formal system to allow recipients of services to pay back, or pay forward, the cost of services received with their own volunteer services. He also founded a youth court in Washington D.C which kept 60 percent of all nonviolent criminal offenders out of the juvenile justice system. Cahn's Racial Justice Initiative led to public hearings on alternatives to detention in light of the “kids for cash” judicial scandal in Luzerne County, Pa. Earlier this month, Cahn was honored at the National Constitution Center as the first recipient of the Education Works Social Justice Award for his life’s work.

Cahn, the Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Law at the University of the District of Columbia, graduated from Swarthmore with a B.A. in English literature. He later earned an M.A. and Ph.D. from Yale University and a J.D. from Yale Law School.