Frank Askin, Fierce Defender of Civil Liberties, Dies at 89

Frank Askin was born on Jan. 8, 1932, in Baltimore to Abraham and Rose (Mervis) Askin. His father, whose family had immigrated from Kiev, owned the tavern in Baltimore’s Hotel Biltmore. His mother’s family came from Latvia when she was 2 years old.

Frank’s first job, when he was 12, was controlling the manual scoreboard for Baltimore’s N.B.A. team, the Bullets, which an uncle owned. After dropping out of the University of Baltimore, he conducted sit-ins to integrate the city’s public tennis courts; ran New Challenge, a left-wing magazine in New York; and worked for The Bergen Evening Record in Hackensack, N.J., where he met his future wife, Marilyn Klein, before being fired for trying to unionize the staff.

In addition to his wife and their son Jonathan, a professor at Brooklyn Law School, Mr. Askin, who lived in Fort Lauderdale, is survived by their other son, Daniel; two grandsons; and a son, Steve, from an earlier marriage, which ended in divorce. A daughter, Andrea, died two years ago.

Mr. Askin earned only 96 credits from the City College of New York, not enough to graduate, but he was nonetheless admitted to Rutgers Law School. In 1966, when he was awarded his law degree, the college gave him a bachelor’s degree simultaneously. At Rutgers, he was a student of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the future United States Supreme Court justice, and later a fellow faculty member.

He founded the Constitutional Litigation Clinic in 1970 to safeguard civil liberties, only to discover later that he had been the subject of government surveillance himself.

In 1982, he mounted a frustrating campaign for the Democratic nomination for Congress in New Jersey’s 11th District against the incumbent, Joseph G. Minish, after spending the “better part of two years and about $60,000 to win 26 percent of the vote,” he wrote in a New York Times opinion article. He ran again in 1986 against the Republican incumbent, Dean Gallo, and was again defeated.

He later received the William Pincus Award, the highest honor conferred by the American Association of Law Schools’ Section on Clinical Legal Education, and the Great Teacher Award from the Society of American Law School Teachers. When he retired in 2016, a wing of Rutgers Law School was named after him and his wife.