Edgar S. Cahn
Distinguished Professor of Law
B.A., Swarthmore College, 1956; M.A., Ph.D., Yale University, 1960; J.D., Yale Law School, 1963.
Professor Cahn teaches System Change and the Law & Justice Practicum. A co-founder with his late wife Jean Camper Cahn of the Antioch School of Law, UDC David A. Clarke School of Law’s predecessor; the first law school in the United States to educate law students primarily through clinical training in legal services to the poor. Together they served as co-deans from 1971 to 1980. In 1997, they received the Association of American Law School’s William Pincus Clinical Award for “Outstanding Contributions to Clinical Legal Education.” In 2009, they received the National Legal Aid and Defender Association’s Charles Dorsey Award for extraordinary and dedicated service to the equal justice community and to organizations that promote expanding and improving access to justice for low-income people.
In an effort to involve communities in promoting systems of self-help in the late 1980s, Professor Cahn began the Time Dollars project, a service credit program that now has more than 70 communities in the United States, Great Britain and Japan with registered programs (www.timebanks.org). His use of “time dollars” as an economic strategy for addressing social problems is described in his books, Time Dollars (1992) and No More Throw-Away People: The Coproduction Imperative (2004), showing how to mobilize a non-market economy that recognizes and rewards reciprocal contributions of service and caring.
In Washington, D.C., Professor Cahn founded the Time Dollar Youth Court, in which teen juries judge cases of teens arrested for the first time for non-violent offenses. The Court, originally housed at UDC Law, hears 15 to 30 cases each week, approximately 800 cases per year. Professor Cahn was official advisor to the National Blue Ribbon Commission on Restructuring Juvenile Justice in the District of Columbia and is now Vice Chair of the Mayor’s Juvenile Advocacy Group.
With the publication in 1968 of Hunger, USA, and litigation he instituted, Professor Cahn initiated both the preeminent exposé of hunger in America and the first major national drive against it.
In 1969, after years of research, and with evidence the Native American Task Force helped to gather, Professor Cahn published Our Brother’s Keeper: The Indian in White America. It substantiated and contributed to efforts that (1) ended the official policy of termination of American Indian nations, (2) embraced the right of self-determination, and (3) led to the enactment of Public Law 93-638, the American Indian Self Determination Act.
Of Professor Cahn’s numerous articles, The War on Poverty: A Civilian Perspective, 73 Yale L.J. 1317 (1964), co-authored with Jean Camper Cahn, provided the blueprint for the National Legal Services. Sargent Shriver, Director of President Kennedy’s Office of Economic Opportunity, credited it as the “genesis of legal services.” It is one of Yale Law Journal‘s most cited articles.
The Cahns are generally acknowledged as co-founders of the Legal Services Program. Professor Cahn, working as Sargent Shriver’s Executive Assistant, and Jean Cahn, brought over as a Consultant from the State Department to initiate the program, negotiated with the American Bar Association for its support, made the first grants and assembled the first National Advisory Committee.
Professor Cahn has been a Visiting Scholar at Columbia University’s Center for the Study of Human Rights, a Senior Research Fellow at the Southeast Florida Center on Aging at Florida International University, and Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the London School of Economics.