A graduate of Yale University and Harvard Law School, Chevigny devoted his early career and scholarship to studying police abuses. His dedicated work with the New York Civil Liberties Union, as the director of the Police Practices Project and later as a staff attorney, resulted in two seminal works, Police Power: Police Abuses in New York City and Cops and Rebels, now classics in the field.
Chevigny joined the NYU Law faculty in 1977 and broadened his focus to encompass the First Amendment and freedom of expression. His influential book, More Speech: Dialogue Rights and Modern Liberty, garnered widespread acclaim. The courses he taught included the Clinic in International Human Rights as well as several doctrinal classes. “Although his expertise was broad, he found great joy in teaching the foundational Criminal Law course—and I had the privilege of experiencing his teaching when I was a first-year student,” McKenzie recalled in his email announcement of Chevigny’s death.
“Paul was a brilliant trial lawyer and an unshakeable moral force and…a beloved and effective teacher,” said Burt Neuborne, Norman Dorsen Professor of Civil Liberties Emeritus, adding, “Paul was one of the kindest men I’ve ever known.”
Later in his career, Chevigny focused on the comparative study of police violence. His reports included “Human Rights in Jamaica,” “Police Abuses in Brazil,” and “Police Violence in Argentina.” This work contributed to the publication of his book Edge of the Knife, a comprehensive study on police violence in the Americas.
Chevigny was also a music aficionado, whose dedication to the city’s cultural scene influenced his work. In 1988 he successfully challenged New York City’s cabaret law on First Amendment grounds, overturning restrictions on jazz clubs that limited the number of musicians and types of instruments permitted on stage at one time. “The night after we won is one of my best memories ever,” recalls Professor Claudia Angelos, whose clinical students worked on the case with Chevigny. “He took me to all the jazz clubs that inspired the lawsuit, where we were treated like never before or since.”
Posted December 14, 2023; updated December 18, 2023