Professor Irene Merker Rosenberg,who taught generations of young lawyers about the criminal justice system during her 35 years at the University of Houston Law Center, has died at the age of 71.
“Irene was a valued member of our faculty for many years and a personal friend of many of us,” said Dean Raymond T. Nimmer in announcing her death. “Irene was much more than a colleague,” said Professor Ellen Marrus who worked closely with Rosenberg on juvenile justice issues. “She was a friend, co-author and family. Irene had a moral compass that always pointed in the right direction.” Both Marrus and Professor Laura Oren, who taught Constitutional Law along with Rosenberg, underscored her contribution to both constitutional and juvenile justice law as trial attorney for the In re. Winship case. The U.S. Supreme Court held that the adult criminal “reasonable doubt” standard applied to allegedly “civil” delinquency adjudications as well. “Modest as she was about it, her contribution to Winship was an accomplishment that few lawyers can claim,” Oren said. “For the rest of her career, Irene fought to ensure that children did not end up getting the worst of two legal worlds -- adult criminal and juvenile civil.” Marrus added: “She was a compassionate lawyer that changed the face of juvenile justice with her work on In re Winship, her training of other attorneys, and her modeling of what a child's attorney should do when representing a child in trouble.”
Professor Rosenberg joined the Law Center faculty in 1974 and retired as Royce R. Till Professor of Law in 2009. A New York City native, Rosenberg graduated from City College of New York in 1961 and New York University School of Law in 1964. Rosenberg came to the Law Center after a brief foray into private practice of criminal law. She previously worked as a trial lawyer and attorney-in-charge of the Legal Aid Society Juvenile Rights Division in New York City. Immediately after law school she worked as a staff attorney in the Public Health Division of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare in Washington, D.C. During her tenure at the Law Center, Rosenberg wrote extensively about criminal law and the juvenile justice system.