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Tribe to Return to Harvard Law School in January 2011

By Zoe A. Y. Weinberg, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard Law School professor Laurence H. Tribe ’62 will return to the Law School this January after serving in the Department of Justice for nine months as senior counselor for the Access to Justice Initiative.

Tribe is leaving the Department of Justice because he has experienced recurring facial seizures and other symptoms of a benign brain tumor, which was diagnosed in 2008, according to a Law School press release.

In returning to the Law School, Tribe will be closer to Massachusetts General Hospital, where he will undergo treatment.

Though Tribe will return to the Law School faculty in January, he will not teach until the 2011-2012 school year.

“His inspired work promoting access to justice has opened new approaches that will continue long after he returns to Harvard—and we are so grateful for his public service even as we are eager to welcome him back here,” said Law School Dean Martha L. Minow in the press release.

Tribe has spearheaded the launch of the Justice Department’s new Access to Justice Initiative, a program that seeks to improve access to legal services for the poor and middle class.

In this post, Tribe has served as the primary liaison to the federal and state judiciary, and has traveled across the country to work with judges and attorneys to improve the delivery of legal services.

“With his trademark brilliant advocacy and penetrating insight, Larry Tribe brought national focus to the crisis of access to justice in our courts,” said Margaret H. Marshall, Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in a press release.

“The principle of equal justice for all has had no greater champion in our time. We are delighted to welcome Larry home to Massachusetts and look forward to continuing to work with him here,” Marshall said.

On Nov. 19, Tribe presented several new initiatives with Vice President Joe Biden at a Middle Class Task Force event at the White House. The new programs included a revamped foreclosure mediation approach, steps to help veterans access legal services, and improved legal support for workers.

Tribe worked with the Department of Labor, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Department of Veterans Affairs to shape these new initiatives.

“Many people’s lives can be improved without major new investments, and in fact with real savings, if we simply help them access the legal rights and benefits that are theirs,” Tribe said at the event.

According to the New York Times, Tribe said he has been open about his medical situation to avoid speculation that his departure from the Justice Department was related to the leak last month of a letter written to President Obama in May 2009 which criticized Sonia Sotomayor as a potential Supreme Court nominee.

The Department of Justice will continue its Access to Justice Initiative, but it is unclear whether a successor to Tribe will be selected to lead the effort.

—Staff writer Zoe A.Y. Weinberg can be reached at

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