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Constitutional law scholar Gerald Gunther, whose casebook on the subject was a bible for thousands of law students, died Tuesday evening of lung cancer. He was 75. Most recently a professor emeritus at Stanford Law School, Gunther was known as a multifaceted man — not only was he magna cum laude Harvard grad and a leading expert in his field of law, but he translated “Winnie the Pooh” into German and talked insider boxing. “He was our premier player on the whole faculty,” said William Cohen, a close friend and fellow constitutional law professor at Stanford. Gunther, the son of a butcher, was born in Usingen, Germany, in 1927. He was one of only two Jews at his elementary school, and his teacher was a Nazi, Cohen said. Gunther came to the U.S. in 1938, a move that started his life on its illustrious path. “He used to say, if it wasn’t for Hitler he would have been a butcher,” said Cohen. His colleagues at Stanford say Gunther enriched the faculty of the law school. “He was a very valuable colleague,” said John Henry Merryman, a professor of comparative law and art in the law who has been at Stanford since Gunther arrived in 1962. “He was always available and happy to respond to questions. He would talk at length about constitutional problems.” Constitutional law certainly wasn’t his only interest. Gunther had an “insane infatuation with European soccer,” said Robert Weisberg, a former student of Gunther’s who now teaches criminal law at Stanford. “One had the impression that he was finding midnight cable channels [on which] to follow his favorite team.” Gunther authored dozens of essays and books on legal matters, most notably a biography of Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Learned Hand, which earned him the Supreme Court Historical Society’s Griswold Prize. Gunther referred to Hand as the greatest judge “never to be appointed to the Supreme Court,” and considered him the peer of Justices Oliver Wendell Holmes, Louis Brandeis and Benjamin Cardozo. Gunther clerked for Hand and Chief Justice Earl Warren in the 1950s. Weisberg remembers working for Gunther as a research assistant in the 1970s: “I had a background in literature and wanted to contribute to the understanding of constitutional law. But Gunther said, ‘I don’t need you for that.’ He wanted me to help him understand Hand’s fondness for French Renaissance literature.” Colleagues remember Gunther as a leading thinker in First Amendment issues. “[He was] someone who thought more deeply than anyone in the country about the meaning of free political speech. And [he] wrestled with Hand’s own struggles for boundaries of the First Amendment,” Weisberg said. After graduating from Brooklyn College in 1949, Gunther began teaching political science and constitutional law there and at City University of New York. He also received an M.A. in public law and government from Columbia University, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1953. After clerking for Hand and Warren, Gunther began teaching at Columbia Law School. In 1962, Gunther was one of four law professors to leave Columbia for Stanford. This exodus of talent from one school to another was a major coup in the law school world and is referred to now as “the great raid of 1962.” Gunther’s influence in the legal profession was ubiquitous, ranging from teaching his students to acting as a mentor for Stanford Law School Dean Kathleen Sullivan and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Gunther had a long list of honors and awards. They include: the Learned Hand Medal for Excellence in Federal Jurisprudence in 1988, the Richard J. Maloney Prize for Distinguished Contributions to Legal Education in 1990, the Guggenheim Fellowship in 1962, election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1973 and the Bernard Witkin Medal of the State Bar of California in 1995. Gunther was named as best qualified choice for U.S. Supreme Court in a national poll in 1987 by the New York Law Journal and listed as “first-class centrist” choice by The American Lawyer magazine (both publications are Recorder affiliates) in 1991. He is survived by his wife, Barbara; his brother, Herbert Gutenstein of Riverdale, N.Y.; his two sons, Daniel Gunther of San Francisco and Andrew Gunther of Santa Cruz; and two grandchildren. A community memorial will be held in September.

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