Walter Heilprin Pollak was a lawyer and civil libertarian who is credited with convincing the U.S. Supreme Court to first adopt the INCORPORATION DOCTRINE, which the Court has used to extend most of the provisions of the BILL OF RIGHTS to limit actions by state and local governments. Pollak is also remembered for his arguments for the defense in POWELL V. ALABAMA, 287 U.S. 45, 53 S. Ct. 55, 77 L. Ed. 158 (1932), which extended the RIGHT TO COUNSEL in death penalty cases to state criminal trials.
Pollak was born on June 4, 1887, in Summit, New Jersey. He graduated from Harvard University in 1907 and from Harvard Law School in 1910. He joined the prominent New York City law firm of Sullivan and Cromwell, but in 1912 he left for the smaller firm of Simpson, Warren, and Cardozo. Pollak worked with BENJAMIN N. CARDOZO before Cardozo left in 1914 to become a New York Court of Appeals judge. Following Cardozo's departure and the retirement of another partner, Pollak became partner in the firm of Englehard and Pollak.
Pollak was an ardent supporter of FREEDOM OF SPEECH and the Bill of Rights. He appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court Benjamin Gitlow's conviction under New York's Criminal Anarchy Act (N.Y. Penal Law §§ 160?161 [repealed 1967]) for "advocacy of criminal anarchy," which was defined as the advocacy of "the duty, necessity or propriety of overthrowing or overturning organized government by force or violence" (GITLOW V. NEW YORK, 268 U.S. 652, 45 S. Ct. 625, 69 L. Ed. 1138 ). Gitlow was convicted and sentenced to a prison term of five to ten years for distributing a left-wing pamphlet.
"MAN IS A FREE AGENT TO USE HIS TONGUE AND PEN, AS HE MAY USE HIS BRAIN AND BODY GENERALLY, FOR HIS OWN BENEFIT OR HARM IN THE CONDUCT OF HIS PRIVATE AFFAIRS."
?WALTER H. POLLAK
Pollak argued that the First Amendment's guarantees of freedom of speech and FREEDOM OF THE PRESS were applicable to the states because the DUE PROCESS CLAUSE of the FOURTEENTH AMENDMENT protects "liberty" from abridgement by the states. By incorporating the FIRST AMENDMENT provisions into the Fourteenth
Amendment, states could not restrain the free speech rights of persons such as Gitlow.
Though the Court did not agree with Pollak that the New York law was unconstitutional, it did adopt his incorporation argument, holding that freedom of speech and the press "are among the most fundamental personal rights and 'liberties' protected...