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Lewis Daniel "Lew" Sargentich (b. 1944[1]), frequently referred to simply as "Sarge", has been a professor at Harvard Law School since 1973 where he teaches courses tort law and jurisprudence. Sargentich is well known for his remarkable record as a student at Harvard Law School, where he both named and first analyzed the First Amendment overbreadth doctrine in a student note [1]. He graduated summa cum laude.

Lew Sargentich
Professor Sargentich
Lewis Daniel Sargentich

1944 (age 74–75)
OccupationLaw Professor, Harvard Law School
Years active1973–present

He grew up in Alhambra, California, and is the son of Daniel Sargentich, a first-generation American who lost most of his hearing working in copper mines, and Peggy Sargentich, who was known as Margaret until she told a handsome man in a voter registration line that her name was "Peggy" a name that stuck as that man became her husband of 65 years.[2] Sarge is also the brother of Thomas O. Sargentich, the late professor at American University School of law[3][4] and Karen Sargentich Stafford author of The Obelisk and "Dad Turned 90 on the 4th of July: Daniel Milo Sargentich".[5]

He co-authors the popular tort law casebook Tort and Accident Law: Cases and Materials with Gregory Keating and the late Robert Keeton.

His latest book is Liberal Legality: A Unified Theory of Our Law [6], published by Cambridge University Press in April 2018.



Academic careerEdit

During his time at Alhambra High School, Sargentich was the most acclaimed student orator in the country.[7] He won both the prestigious National Forensic League Boys Domestic Extemporaneous Speaking tournament[8] and the Lions Club National Speaker Contest in 1961.[9] He then attended and graduated from Occidental College, Sussex University, and Harvard Law School.

His brilliant academic career won him many accolades. Notably, Sargentich was one of a total of only eight HLS students to receive the summa cum laude designation at Harvard Law from 1969-2007 when the designation determined by a Grade Point Average threshold (the other seven are Richard Cooper '69, Isaac Pachulski '74, Peter Huber '82, Lisa Grow Sun '97, Julian Poon '99, Brian Fletcher '06, & Yaakov Roth '07). Harvard Law School experienced grade inflation in the 90's & 2000's leading to four (Lisa Grow Sun '97, Julian Poon '99, Brian Fletcher '06 & Yaakov Roth '07) students receiving the designation in a ten year span. While earning this distinction, Sargentich gained his first exposure to his future field of tort law in a course on the subject taught by longtime HLS Professor Robert Keeton, in which he received a grade of A+. This performance was sandwiched between his experiences as a Marshall Scholar[10] at the University of Sussex in 1965 and as one of Thurgood Marshall's Supreme Court Law Clerks in 1970–71.

Early legal careerEdit

He first gained acclaim in the legal profession for his student article, The First Amendment Overbreadth Doctrine (83 Harv. L. Rev. 844 ), which has been cited by over 210 scholarly works and over 150 cases making it the second most cited student legal article ever written.[11] The article has been widely acclaimed as brilliant and sufficient impetus for HLS's extremely rare award of tenure to Sargentich before he had published any works professionally. He is commonly cited for his unpublished manuscript Complex Enforcement written in March 1978 and on file at the Harvard Law School Library.[12] Sargentich clerked at the Supreme Court during the height of the Vietnam War protest era, when the Court was on security alert from time to time. A confidential memo to justices from Court Clerk E. Robert Seaver, dated May 3, 1971, warned ominously that "further trouble [i.e., an alert] is expected tomorrow morning". The memo laid out the security measures that executive-branch employees were using, including leaving the office early "to avoid a heavy rush-hour traffic and further trouble with the demonstrators". The memo also said: "The key executives in the executive branch are being told that if they want to avoid possible delays they should be in their offices by 6 a.m." Next to that sentence is a hand-drawn line, leading to a note at the bottom, apparently written by Marshall himself which read: "Not germane to law clerk Sargentich!!!"

Asked about the note, Sargentich laughed loudly. "That was the justice, all right", he said. That year, Sargentich recalls, "I always strolled in rather late, and then worked very late", a habit he continues even now. "Getting in at 6 a.m.? I'm barely moving at that hour".[13] Reflecting on his time as a clerk, Sargentich once commented that Justice Marshall "always was a person who believed in liberal values and who believed in the law and its service to the world".[14]

Later careerEdit

After clerking, Sargentich worked as staff counsel for the Washington Research Project for a year.[15] He then worked for a year as associate general counsel for the United Mine Workers in Washington.[15][16] He currently teaches jurisprudence and torts at Harvard Law; he became a lecturer at the school in 1973 at the age of 29, an assistant professor in 1974, and a full professor in 1979.[15][17] Listing him as "One of 10 Professors to Take" in 2003, the Harvard Law Record noted that "[a]s the legal academy focuses increasingly on the intersection of law and politics, economics, race, literature, Sargentich stands tall as a steadfast expositor of the philosophical roots of law".[18] His other activities at Harvard while a professor have included chairing Harvard's international graduate program.[19]

On October 16, 1983, the New York Times published a letter co-written by Sargentich and fellow Harvard law professors Duncan Kennedy and Richard Parker responding to adverse media reaction to George McGovern's announcement of his presidential candidacy.[20] The letter provides a rare window into Sargentich's political leanings. It states in part:

"What makes McGovern different is just this: He moved his party not to the right but to the left - and he seeks to move it to the left again. That, it seems to us, is reason enough to support his candidacy."


Sargentich is married to and frequently makes joint contributions with Valerie Bradley,[2] who has been the President of the Human Services Research Institute—an organization involved in assisting states and the federal government to enhance services and supports to people with mental illness and people with intellectual disabilities—in Cambridge, MA since its inception in 1976.[21][22][23] Sarge's apparent technological backwardness was once satirized in a Harvard Law Record April Fools' Day article quoting (a fictional version of) Sargentich as saying "I still don't fully understand what the Internet even is, your world frightens and confuses [me]".[24]


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  2. ^ a b
  3. ^ 3/7/04 Monterey County Herald
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-09-10. Retrieved 2007-03-31.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-12-06. Retrieved 2008-12-11.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  10. ^[permanent dead link]
  11. ^
  12. ^ See, e.g. Doe v. District of Columbia, 701 F.2d 948, 226 U.S.App.D.C. 212, C.A.D.C., January 11, 1983 (NO. 80-2171)
  13. ^ 138 N.J.L.J. 674
  14. ^ 4/15/98 Chi. Trib. 11 1998 WLNR 6523195
  15. ^ a b c "Lewis D. Sargentich." Marquis Who's Who TM. Marquis Who's Who, 2009. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2009.
  16. ^ See e.g. North American Coal Corp. v. Local Union 2262, United Mine Workers of America, 497 F.2d 459
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-06-04. Retrieved 2009-10-12.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  19. ^[permanent dead link]
  20. ^ 10/16/83 N.Y. Times (Abstracts) 416; Subscription only article available at:
  21. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2004-11-26. Retrieved 2008-12-11.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  22. ^
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  24. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-04-09. Retrieved 2008-12-10.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)