Elizabeth Holtzman, the former Congresswoman who gained renown for her role in the Watergate hearings and who more recently called for the impeachment of President George W. Bush, will address a constitutional law class next week at the University of Miami School of Law.
Holtzman, who at 31 was the youngest woman ever elected to Congress – a record she still holds – is the author of several books in the arenas of politics and law. Her latest tome, published last month by Beacon Press, is "Cheating Justice: How Bush and Cheney Attacked the Rule of Law, Plotted to Avoid Prosecution, and What We Can Do about It." Co-authored with the journalist Cynthia Cooper, the book posits that the failure to indict, prosecute or hold accountable officials at the highest level of the Bush administration makes a mockery of U.S. law and sets frightening precedents.
She will speak to the class of Professor Elizabeth M. Iglesias, the Director of the Center for Hispanic and Caribbean Legal Studies, on March 27 at 3:30 p.m. in Room LC170 of the George E. Whitten Learning Center on Brunson Drive, behind the School of Communications, on UM's Coral Gables campus.
In 1972, Holtzman, a Harvard Law School graduate, was dubbed "Liz the Lion Killer" by TIME magazine when she unseated incumbent Congressman Emanuel Celler, who had represented central Brooklyn for half a century and was chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. She was 54 years younger than he.
The following year, Holtzman filed suit to halt the U.S. bombing of Cambodia on the grounds that it had not been approved by Congress. A district court ruled the military action in Cambodia unconstitutional, but an appeals court reversed the decision.
She was a prominent member of the House Judiciary Committee that investigated, held hearings and voted for articles of impeachment against President Richard M. Nixon as a result of the Watergate scandal. She later aggressively questioned President Gerald R. Ford about his pardon of Nixon and defended the government's claim over Nixon's tapes and papers. Using Watergate-era reforms as a model, Holtzman, a former district attorney, details in her latest book the steps necessary to establish new protections that would prevent future presidents from abusing the law.
Holtzman served on the Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group, bringing long-escaped war criminals to justice. Her fight against former Nazis' impunity was featured in "Elusive Justice: the Search for Nazi War Criminals," described by The Wall Street Journal as one of the two best television documentaries this year.
Holtzman's call to impeach Bush was prompted by his authorizing the wiretapping of Americans in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Years earlier, Holtzman proposed the bill that required that "state secrets" claims be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
In 1978, Holtzman led the fight to secure a seven-year extension of the ratification deadline of the Equal Rights Amendment, Congress eventually added three-and-a-half years to the deadline. Holtzman also helped secure a prohibition on sex discrimination in federal public works programs, lawyer's fees in Title IX gender discrimination suits, and privacy for rape victims in federal trials.
She co-authored the special prosecutor law that Kenneth Starr used against President Bill Clinton in the wake of the Whitewater investigation and the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
Holtzman's latest book has already earned considerable approbation. "Here at last is a book for everyone who is outraged – or just bewildered – that Bush, Cheney and other top officials escaped prosecution for their many flagrant violations of the law," Katha Pollitt, author of Subject to Debate, wrote in a testimonial. "Will there really be no consequences for the men who lied us into war, compromised our civil liberties, and made 'waterboarding' and 'Guantanamo' household words?"
Gloria Steinem, the writer and feminist activist and co-founder "Ms." magazine, said that Holtzman takes on in her book the "crucial task of investigating – and exposing – exactly how President George W. Bush and Vice President Cheney started an illegal war, subverted civil liberties, human rights and the law itself, and then used the national trauma following 9/11 to cover it up."
Elizabeth Holtzman. (Photo: Provided to Miami Law)