Meltzer, Law School prof, dead at 92

By Lokchi Lam

Bernard D. Meltzer, a highly influential scholar of labor law, professor emeritus at the U of C Law School, and a prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, died last Thursday at the age of 92 in his Hyde Park home.

The cause of death was prostate cancer, The New York Times reported.

Meltzer graduated from both the College and the Law School at the University of Chicago. He obtained his master of laws degree at Harvard in 1938, according to a University press release.

He then went on to work at the General Counsel’s office of the Securities and Exchange Commission, before serving as legal consultant for the National Defense Advisory Commission and holding several positions in the State Department.

After WWII, Meltzer joined the U.S. Prosecution Staff at the Nuremberg International War Trials and conducted the pre-trial interrogation of Hermann Goering, a commander of the German Luftwaffe and the person considered the second-in-command of Hitler’s military regime.

In 1946 he joined the Law School faculty.

Meltzer, along with Walter Blum, Edward Levy, and Harry Kalven, was one of the four prominent faculty members who “basically defined the Law School,” said Douglas Baird, professor of law.

“This is a real moment in Law School history,” Baird said. “We’re on our own.

“The Law School, to be honest, in 1946, was not very good,” Baird said. “We were lucky enough to bring together these four individuals.”

Meltzer helped create a culture of “rigorous, dedicated thinking, being completely principled and really smart,” Baird said.

“All of us who had high-flying ideas had to run the Bernie gauntlet,” said Richard Epstein, professor of law, recalling Meltzer’s “laser-like” intellect. “He was like a goalie—he’d just kind of block and parry and slow you down and lead you to immense frustration—and he always had a point. He really had an instinct both for the jugular and the capillary.”

Meltzer is survived by his wife, Jean Meltzer, as well as his three children and six grandchildren.

A public memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, February 2 at the University of Chicago Law School, Glen A. Lloyd Auditorium, 1111 East 60th Street.