Peter Benjamin Edelman (born January 9, 1938) is an American lawyer, policy maker, and law professor at Georgetown University Law Center, specializing in the fields of poverty, welfare, juvenile justice, and constitutional law. He worked for Senator Robert F. Kennedy, and for the Clinton administration, where he resigned to protest Bill Clinton's signing the welfare reform legislation. Edelman was one of the founders and president of the board of the New Israel Fund.
Edelman grew up in a Jewish family Minneapolis, Minnesota, the son of Hyman and Miriam Edelman. His father worked as a lawyer and his mother worked as a homemaker and a gifted pianist. His grandfather Eliezer Edelman was a rabbi in Poland; Eliezer and his wife were shot and killed by the Nazis during World War II.
Edelman became director of the New York state Division for Youth, in 1975, joined Foley & Lardner as partner in 1979, and served as issues director for Senator Edward Kennedy's presidential campaign, in 1980. In 1981, he helped found Parents United in the District of Columbia to empower parents to advocate for educational quality in DC's public schools. Edelman has taught at Georgetown since 1982.
Work in the Clinton administration
Edelman took a leave of absence during Clinton's first term, to serve as counselor to HHS SecretaryDonna Shalala and then as assistant secretary for planning and evaluation.
In late 1994, Clinton considered nominating Edelman to a seat on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that had become vacant with the decision by Abner Mikva to retire from the bench on September 19, 1994, to become White House counsel. However, Clinton feared a difficult confirmation battle—particularly given publicly stated opposition to Edelman's nomination by U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee member Orrin Hatch—and he backed off, later successfully nominating Merrick Garland to the seat. In 1995, Clinton mulled nominating Edelman to the federal district court in Washington D.C., but in August 1995, he abandoned that possibility as well. The withdrawal came despite Hatch's stated support for Edelman's nomination. "District court judges don't make policy as much as the judges on the circuit courts do," Hatch told The New York Times. "He's very liberal, but he's also an extremely fine man and I told the White House that I would support him for the district court."
Former United States–Japan Leadership Program Fellow
Former J. Skelly Wright Memorial Fellow at Yale Law School
Not a Crime to Be Poor: The Criminalization of Poverty in America (The New Press, 2017).
So Rich, So Poor: Why It's So Hard to End Poverty in America (The New Press, 2012).
Reconnecting Disadvantaged Young Men. With Harry JHolzer and Paul Offner. (Washington, D.C.: Urban Institute Press, 2006).
Contributor, Community Programs to Promote Youth Development (Jacqueline Eccles & Jennifer Appleton Gootman eds., Natl Acad. Press 2002).
The Future of Social Insurance: Incremental Action or Fundamental Reform? (Peter B. Edelman et al. eds., Nat'l Acad. Soc. Ins. 2002).
Searching for America's Heart: RFK and the Renewal of Hope (Houghton Mifflin Co. 2001, Georgetown University Press 2003).
Adolescence and Poverty: Challenge for the 1990s (Peter B. Edelman & Joyce Ladner eds., Center for National Policy Press 1991).
And Beryl A. Radin, Serving Children and Families Effectively: How the Past Can Help the Future (Education and Human Services Consortium 1991).
A New Social Contract: Rethinking the Nature and Purpose of Public Assistance, Report of the Task Force on Poverty and Welfare, State of New York (Peter B. Edelman contr., State of New York 1986).
"American Government and the Politics of Youth," in A Century of Juvenile Justice, (Ed.s Margaret K. Rosenheim, Franklin E. Zimring, David S. Tanenhaus, and Bernardine Dohrn, 310–38. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002).
And Beryl A. Radin, "Effective Services for Children and Families: Lessons From the Past and Strategies for the Future," in Effective Services for Young Children: Report of a Workshop 48 (Lisbeth B. Schorr et al. eds., National Academy Press 1991).
Response to Elliot Currie, "Crime and Drugs: Reclaiming a Liberal Issue," in Franklin D. Roosevelt and the Future of Liberalism 89 (John F. Sears ed., Meckler 1991).
"Urban Poverty: Where Do We Go From Here?" in The Future of National Urban Policy 89 (Marshall Kaplan & Franklin James eds., Duke University Press 1990).
"Creating Jobs for Americans: From MDTA to Industrial Policy," in The Great Society and Its Legacy: Twenty Years of U.S. Social Policy 91 (Marshall Kaplan & Peggy L. Cuciti eds., Duke University Press 1986).
And Myrtis H. Powell, "Smoothing the Path From School to Work: A Promising Venture in Structural Change," in The State Role in Promoting Youth Employment 1 (Southern Education Foundation 1986).
"What Shall We Do About America's Poor Now ?" in 3 Money (Eleanor Goldstein ed., Social Issues Resources Series 1986).
"Institutionalizing Dispute Resolution Alternatives," in Dispute Resolution 505 (Stephen B. Goldberg et al. eds., Little, Brown & Co. 1985).
"Re-Visioning Public Responsibility," in Beyond Reagan: Alternatives for the '80s 132 (Alan Gartner et al. eds., Harper & Row 1984).
"Work and Welfare: An Alternative Perspective on Entitlements," in Budget and Policy Choices 1983: Taxes, Defense, Entitlements 51 (W. Bowman Cutter, III et al. eds, Center for National Policy 1983).
"Where Is FDR When We Need Him?", 93 Georgetown Law Journal 1681 (2005).
"Where Race Meets Class: The 21st Century Civil Rights Agenda", 12 Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law & Policy 1 (2005).
"Welfare and the Politics of Race: Same Tune, New Lyrics", 11 Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law & Policy 389 (2004).
"The Welfare Debate: Getting Past the Bumper Stickers", 27 Harvard Journal of Public Policy 93 (2003).
"Beyond Welfare Reform: Economic Justice in the 21st Century", 24 Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law 475 (2003).
"Remarks, D.C. Consortium of Legal Service Providers: Legal Services 2000 Symposium", 5 University of the District of Columbia Law Review 257 (2002).
"Succeeding in Uncertain Times: Challenges for Distressed Communities", Keynote address, Reshaping the Fundamentals: Strengthening Community Economies in Turbulent Times, Michigan State University Community and Economic Development Program, East Lansing, MI (July 22, 2002).
"Welfare Reform: Where Have We Been, Where Are We Going?" Speech, action/research conference sponsored by the Bryn Mawr College Center for Ethnicities, Communities and Social Policy and the Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research, Bryn Mawr, PA, March 1, 2002.
"TANF Reauthorization: Is Congress Acting on What We Have Learned?", 1 Seattle J. For Soc. Just. 403 (2002).
"Forgotten Stories About Forgotten People", 55 Nieman Reports 29 (2001).
Review of The Gentleman from Georgia: The Biography of Newt Gingrich, by Mel Steely, 20 Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 568 (2001).
"Poverty and Welfare Policy in the Post Clinton Era", 70 Mississippi Law Journal 877 (2001).
Et al., "A Conservation on Federalism and the States: The Balancing Act of Devolution", 64 Alb. L. Rev. 1091 (2001).
"Poverty & Welfare: Does Compassionate Conservatism Have a Heart?", 64 Alb. L. Rev. 1073 (2001).
"Promoting Family by Promoting Work: the Hole in Martha Fineman's Doughnut", 8 Am. U. J. Gender, Soc. Pol'y, & L. 85 (1999).
Panel Discussion: "Arthur J. Goldberg's Legacies to American Labor Relations", 32 J. Marshall L. Rev. 667 (1999).
Et al., "A Family Commitment to Families and Children", 37 Fam. & Conciliation Cts. Rev. 8 (1999).
"The Impact of Welfare Reform on Children: Can We Get It Right Before the Crunch Comes?", 60 Ohio St. L.J. 1493 (1999).
"So-Called 'Welfare Reform': Let's Talk About What's Really Needed to Get People Jobs", 17 L. & Inequality 217 (1999).
"Welfare and the 'Third Way'", Dissent 14 (Winter 1999).
"Responding to the Wake-Up Call: A New Agenda for Poverty Lawyer", 24 New York University Review of Law & Social Change 547 (1998).
"Opening Address", Symposium: Lawyering for Poor Communities in the Twenty-First Century, 25 Fordham Urb. L.J. 685 (1998).
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