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Legal Oral History Project

Stewart Dalzell



Stewart Dalzell is a 1969 graduate of Penn Law School. He was born in 1943 in Hackensack and grew up in Bloomfield, New Jersey, the only son of a steel salesman and a homemaker. He attended the Wharton School and, after graduating in 1965, moved to New York City to work as a financial consultant at NBC. A year later he returned to the University of Pennsylvania to enroll in the Law School.

Dalzell’s experience at Penn Law reinforced his interest in politics, the law, and the judicial process as a whole. After graduation, Dalzell practiced as an attorney at the law firm of Drinker, Biddle and Reath. In 1971 he worked on the unsuccessful Philadelphia mayoral campaign of W. Thacher Longstreth, a long-time friend. Dalzell was involved in the Charter fight in the late 1970’s, where Major Frank Rizzo sought to amend the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter to allow him to run for a third term as mayor. He formed a coalition in opposition to the change, which was ultimately defeated. He was also involved in John Heinz’ successful campaign for the U.S. Senate.

Recommended by Pennsylvania’s Senators Heinz and Spector, President George Bush nominated him to fill a judicial vacancy on the federal bench in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in 1990. He was confirmed by the Senate in 1991. One of Dalzell’s most well-known opinions was ACLU v. Reno, the Internet - First Amendment case which declared the unconstitutionality of the Federal Communications Decency Act.