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The founding president of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law is leaving to become a partner at Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe. E. Joshua Rosenkranz, a veteran public interest lawyer who became the president of the Brennan Center at its launch in 1995, will join the San Francisco-based law firm as a litigation shareholder in its New York office, specializing in appellate work. It will be his first job in private practice. “I have absolutely no experience in commercial litigation,” said the 41-year-old Rosenkranz, who will join Heller Ehrman May 1. “The leap of faith I’m taking is that my skill set is transferrable.” It is also a leap that many might not have expected him to make. While there are no shortage of big-firm lawyers who claim they would work in the public interest if only they could, the desire of public interest lawyers to clock billable hours at corporate firms has always been more muted. That might seem especially true of a public interest lawyer who, after founding and heading the state’s Office of the Appellate Defender, had risen to head one of the highest-profile public interest law groups in the nation. The Brennan Center, created to honor U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan Jr., has filed suits relating to campaign finance and other electoral reform, living wage laws and issues of social justice. Money was not a major motivation in his decision, Rosenkranz said. And his two small children are not about to enroll in expensive private schools. “I’m a public school kid,” he said, “and my kids are in public school.” Rather, Rosenkranz, while calling the presidency of the Brennan Center the “best” and “most exciting” job in public interest law, said his increasing administrative duties had taken him away from the courtroom. “It came down to knowing that first, foremost and forever, I’m a litigator,” he said. NYU Law Professor Burt Neuborne, the Brennan Center’s legal director, said he understood Rosenkranz’s decision and added that he had felt similar frustration when his responsibilities as national legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union in the 1980s reduced the number of cases he could take on. “It was like being in a candy store and not being able to eat any candy,” said Neuborne. The center will miss Rosenkranz, said Neuborne, adding that he expected Rosenkranz would stay active in the public interest arena. Rosenkranz said he was attracted to Heller Ehrman by its active pro bono program but he is looking forward to working on a wide variety of matters. Joseph T. McLaughlin, chair of Heller Ehrman’s New York office, said Rosenkranz had already met litigators from the firm working in securities, intellectual property, antitrust, product liability and other areas. APPELLATE PRACTICE Rosenkranz will be spearheading an appellate practice, still a rarity in New York, where litigators tend to believe they should be able to take cases from New York Supreme Court to the U.S. Supreme Court. McLaughlin said he believed such practices will become more common. “Appellate practice is really quite specialized and the stakes have become very high,” he said. Rosenkranz said he does not expect switching from public interest to private practice to be all that difficult. He pointed out that, though he clerked for Justice Brennan after graduating from Georgetown Law Center, he also clerked in 1986 for Antonin Scalia, then a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. “I actually sought him out,” said Rosenkranz of Justice Scalia. “I wanted to know if I was just a mush-minded liberal or if I could really stand up for what I believed.”

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