Robert Howard Chanin

Robert Chanin

Title: Lawyer (Retired)

Location: North Bethesda, Maryland, United States

Robert Howard Chanin, a retired lawyer, has been recognized by Marquis Who’s Who Top Lawyers for dedication, achievements, and leadership in the field of legal services.

Mr. Chanin received his undergraduate degree (summa cum laude) from Brooklyn College in 1956, and his J.D. from Yale Law School in 1959. After his graduation from law school, Mr. Chanin worked as an attorney for the Columbia Law School Project for Effective Justice. In 1961, while employed by the Project, Mr. Chanin received a master’s degree in psychology from Columbia University.

Mr. Chanin left the Project for Effective Justice in 1962, and joined the New York City law firm of Kaye Scholer Fierman Hays and Handler, where his primary area of practice was labor law. In 1968, Mr. Chanin moved to Washington, D.C., to become General Counsel for the National Education Association (NEA). NEA represents the employees of public schools and colleges, and is the nation’s largest union, with more than 3,000,000 members. Mr. Chanin served as NEA General Counsel until December 31, 2009, when he retired from the practice of law.

For most of his career with NEA, Mr. Chanin was a member of the Washington, D.C. law firm of Bredhoff & Kaiser, P.L.L.C., which was widely regarded as the preeminent union-side labor law firm in the United States. In addition to NEA, Bredhoff & Kaiser included among its clients the AFL-CIO, the United Steelworkers of America, and numerous other public and private sector unions. After leaving Bredhoff & Kaiser in September 2005, Mr. Chanin continued to serve as NEA General Counsel.

As NEA General Counsel, Mr. Chanin was heavily involved in the development of NEA’s policies with regard to collective bargaining, school desegregation, affirmative action, education reform, and other issues. He played a major role in the establishment of NEA’s political action committee in the early 1970s, and for many years served as legal advisor to the committee. From 1973-80, while serving as NEA’s General Counsel, Mr. Chanin also held the position of NEA Deputy Executive Director.

Mr. Chanin was one of the nation’s foremost authorities on public sector labor relations, having been active in the field since the inception of public sector collective bargaining in the early 1960s. He helped draft and implement public sector labor relations statues in several states, including Connecticut, Illinois, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Mr. Chanin bargained precedent-setting collective bargaining agreements on behalf of NEA affiliates in many jurisdictions. These agreements, which were generally bargained shortly after the enactment of the enabling legislation, served as models for subsequent agreements elsewhere.

In addition to writing numerous articles for law reviews and other scholarly journals, Mr. Chanin co-authored two treatises on public sector labor relations – one in 1970 and the other in 1974. For many years, these treatises served as a primary resource for practitioners, and have frequently been cited by courts and administrative agencies.

In 1973, Mr. Chanin became a Professional Lecturer in Law at the George Washington National Law Center, where he introduced a course in public sector labor law into the curriculum. Mr. Chanin continued to teach public sector labor law at the aforementioned law school until 1980.

Although Mr. Chanin had extensive experience in both trial and appellate courts, he was particularly active at the appellate level. Mr. Chanin briefed and argued five cases before the United States Supreme Court, and filed amicus curiae briefs in some 25 other Supreme Court cases involving constitutional, labor, and educational law issues.

Mr. Chanin briefed and argued more than 40 cases in the United States Courts of Appeals, and appeared before the court of appeals for all circuits except the Federal Circuit. Mr. Chanin filed amicus curiae briefs and otherwise participated in many additional court of appeals cases. These court of appeals cases involved various statutory and constitutional issues, but the majority were First and Fourteenth Amendment cases, dealing with free speech, free association, separation of church and state, equal protection, and due process.

Mr. Chanin’s practice was not limited to the federal courts. He regularly participated in state court proceedings, and appeared before the supreme (or other highest) court of more than a dozen states. These appearances were generally in landmark constitutional, labor, and education law cases, the results of which significantly advanced the interests of public education, and public sector unions and employees.

After his retirement from the practice of law on December 31, 2009, Mr. Chanin served for one year as a Senior Fellow with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights in Washington, D.C.

NEA opposed the use of taxpayer money to fund private school “voucher” programs, and during the mid-1990s, Mr. Chanin was actively involved in litigation that challenged the constitutionality of such funding. These challenges, which took place in both federal and state courts, were based largely on the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and counterpart religion clauses in state constitutions. Mr. Chanin’s work in this area was the subject of the lead article in the May 2000 issue of “The American Lawyer.”

In 2010, a biography of Mr. Chanin was published. This book, which recounts the work that Mr. Chanin did during his career, is titled “More Than a Lawyer: Robert Chanin, the National Education Association, and the Fight for Public Education, Employee Rights, and Social Justice.”

Mr. Chanin presently serves as a member of the Maryland Public School Labor Relations Board and a trustee of the NEA Members Insurance Trust.

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