Daniel Meltzer, R.I.P.

By Jack Goldsmith
Tuesday, May 26, 2015, 5:29 PM

My colleague and friend Dan Meltzer passed away Sunday night after a long battle with cancer. Here is what Dean Martha Minow wrote:

Colleagues, it is with profound sadness that I write to let you know that Dan Meltzer, our beloved friend, teacher, and colleague, has passed away.  No one has better exemplified the highest qualities of judgment, rigorous analysis, devotion to public service, and sheer kindness.  What a privilege it was to know Dan and to work alongside him!  Faculty and staff, deans and students, Presidents and other public leaders sought out Dan for his exceptional counsel and wisdom.  He made the world better in countless ways.  As a teacher and mentor to hundreds of students; as a trusted and thoughtful academic colleague; as an outstanding legal scholar and collaborator; and as a distinguished lawyer in public service and private practice, he demonstrated what it is to act with integrity, to reason with clarity, and to greet all with kindness.  With his remarkable wife Ellen and sons Joshua and Jonathan by his side, Dan battled his cancer with grace and courage and remained optimistic throughout, leaving us all with a model for how to bring our best selves to every day.  The absence of this great man, true mensch, and exceptional friend will be felt deeply and widely throughout our community, our School, our profession, and our nation.

Dan was an important scholar of federal courts and criminal law and procedure. Perhaps less well known, he was also—based on his experiences as Deputy White House Counsel in the Obama administration, and then on the Intelligence Oversight Board—a hugely insightful analyst of national security law and policy.   Numerous people in the Obama administration described Dan’s counsel on these matters as invaluable. (Here is Charlie Savage’s story on Dan when he left the White House; here is a brief tribute from his former colleague Marty Lederman.)

Dan was also one of the very finest human beings I ever met. He was immensely valued at the Harvard Law School, and in the Obama administration, and among friends, for the wisdom and good judgment that he brought to hard decisions in law and life. Dan possessed the elusive ability to see a problem in the round, to dig very deep into the details, to appreciate in a detached manner the consequences of various proposed solutions to the problem, and to ensure that the course of action chosen (or recommended) always adhered to the higher principles that governed the issue.

Just as important, Dan was always, really always, kind and generous and gracious in dealing with others. And he was a genuinely modest man whose modesty highlighted his extraordinary mind and character and integrity.

I will miss Dan so much.