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Intelligent Machines

Harris Weinstein '56, SM '58

Attorney’s causes range from affordable funerals to responsible S&Ls

Harris Weinstein has argued nine cases in the U.S. Supreme Court, taught at leading law schools, and worked in high government posts. But his greatest satisfaction comes from his service as the first chair of the Jewish Funeral Practices Committee of Greater Washington in the mid-1970s. The committee helped establish low-cost, religiously traditional funeral and burial standards to help simplify decisions for bereaved families. Its success has spawned a national organization that promotes affordable funerals.

Weinstein earned his LLB in 1961 at Columbia Law School and was editor in chief of the Columbia Law Review. His first year out of law school, he clerked for Judge William H. Hastie of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Then he joined the Washington, DC, law firm Covington and Burling, where he practiced for 43 of the past 48 years. Since 2007, Weinstein has served as a distinguished lecturer at the Catholic University of America’s law school, where he teaches agency, banking, and international arbitration.

This story is part of the July/August 2010 Issue of the MIT News magazine
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Among his government positions, Weinstein served as chief counsel of the Treasury Department’s Office of Thrift Supervision from 1990 to 1992. Under his leadership, the agency’s legal staff obtained more than 1,500 civil enforcement orders against fiduciaries and executives of failed savings-and-loan institutions. He shared the lessons of those years at a 2008 forum in Portugal. “These kinds of crises, which have recurred for 800 years, are caused by conflicts inherent in public policies that seek to promote economic growth and that are natural and necessary in a democracy,” he says. “Blaming regulators misses the point. We need to recognize that the crises are inevitable in the long term, and we need to maintain vigilance as lending bubbles grow and debt expands.”

Long an active alumnus, Weinstein has served as president of the MIT Alumni Association and as a member of the MIT Corporation. “MIT gave me friends for a lifetime, taught me how to analyze problems, and financed most of the wherewithal I needed for a college education,” he says. “I could not in multiple lifetimes adequately express the affection I have for and the debt I owe the Institute.”

Weinstein lives in McLean, VA, with his wife, Rosa, who founded and directs the Himmelfarb Mobile University for senior citizens. Their sons Josh and Jacob and their daughter, Teme Ring, are writers; their jobs have included executive producer for The Simpsons, copywriter for HBO comedian Dennis Miller, standup comedian, and book author. Weinstein enjoys playing tennis and rooting for the Red Sox.

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