Clarice Z. Smith,
Press Officer,
Manhattan Institute, 212-599-7000, Ext. 318

Listen to Ross Sandler & David Schoenbrod discuss Democracy by Decree with Brian Lehrer on WNYC. Recorded on 1-15-03.

Manhattan Institute Book Catalog.

Ross Sandler
Professor of Law, Director, Center for New York City Law

Dartmouth, A.B. 1961; New York University, LL.B. 1965, Order of the Coif, Law Review, Root Tilden Fellow.

Former Commissioner of New York City Department of Transportation, Assistant U.S. Attorney in Southern District of New York, and Special Advisor to Mayor Edward I. Koch. Specialist in environmental law, having worked with Natural Resources Defense Council and Hudson River Foundation for Science and Environmental Research. Editor, CityLaw.

New York City Law Seminar & Workshop; Reforming Government by Court Order; State & Local Government; Torts.

When Ross Sandler became the founding director of New York Law School’s Center for New York City Law in 1993, Crain’s New York Business applauded the choice, calling him “a good-government crusader.”

For Professor Sandler, it was the opportunity to bring together all his experience—as a legal practitioner, a New York City official, and an academic—in an exciting new enterprise.

“I felt that New York Law School had a unique opportunity to put its resources into a virtually ignored area—state and city government. Here we were, right in the center of everything happening in New York. We could make a real contribution,” he recalls.

Professor Sandler left Jones Day Reavis & Pogue, where he was a partner, to join New York Law School’s faculty and head its newest center, which he suggested should specialize in city government.

“It was a very exciting time. We knew generally what we wanted to do, and we gradually created the structure you see today, which relies on publications like CityLaw, events like our Center Breakfasts and conferences, and of course, on our courses to allow students to learn about the operations of urban government,” explains Professor Sandler.

Professor Sandler, who attended Dartmouth on a scholarship and then went on to New York University Law School on a Root Tilden Fellowship, came to New York Law School after a long and distinguished career in public service, in addition to his years of private practice. During the early 1970s, when he worked in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan as the Chief Appellate Attorney and Chief of the Environmental Enforcement Unit, he was on the cutting edge of environmental law. His office’s successful prosecution of Hudson River polluters led to the passage of the 1972 Clean Water Act. Later, in the mid-1970s, as Senior Staff Attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council, he and his New York Law School colleague David Schoenbrod headed the Urban Environmental Unit, winning a pivotal Clean Air Act case.

Professor Sandler channeled his commitment to public service to the municipal arena in 1981, when Mayor Edward Koch appointed him to the newly created position of Special Advisor to the Mayor, where his environmental law experience helped revitalize the city’s mass transit system. In 1986 he was appointed Department of Transportation Commissioner and proceeded to reorganize the 8,000-person department with a program of maintenance and repair still in place today.

His decades of experience as a participant and observer of urban affairs have made him a familiar figure in New York City government circles and the Center’s Breakfasts have attracted many of the city’s most influential people.

“We’ve become an important forum,” says Professor Sandler about the Friday morning events, which regularly attract several hundred people, most of whom work in city government or the institutions connected to it.

Professor Sandler is an appointed member of the New York Procurement Policy Board. He is the author of numerous publications on environmental law, transportation, and government issues. In 2003, Yale University Press will release his new book, Democracy by Decree: What Happens When Courts Run Government, written with his New York Law School colleague, Professor David Schoenbrod.


Democracy by Decree.


“This is a fascinating book for someone like me who regretted agreeing to a court-approved consent decree limiting the city's authority in programs involving prisons, welfare, education, homeless shelters, etc. The authors discuss the topic in an interesting and clear manner making it a read well worth your time.”
—Ed Koch, former mayor,
New York City

 “A compelling story with a powerful argument backed by lots of fascinating stories about judicial shipwrecks.”
—James B. Jacobs,
New York University School of Law

“Democracy by Decree shows how courts can protect rights and still let mayors and governors do their job.”
—John Sexton,
president of New York University, and dean of NYU Law School

“An easy to read, insightful and scholarly explanation of how our country's government of the people became a government of the courts. Sandler and Schoenbrod offer a measured and practical prescription for restoring democracy while still honoring rights. This book will appeal to liberals and conservatives alike.”
—Lamar Alexander,
former governor of Tennessee

“Democracy by Decree is an impressive and thoughtful analysis of the current court-centered rights culture in which it is too easy for elected officials to ‘pass the buck’ to courts while taking actions that are blatantly unconstitutional.”
—Nadine Strossen,
President, American Civil Liberties Union and professor, New York Law School

“A brilliant, well-written and brave account of how federal courts have distorted our political system by taking control of complex institutions like schools and prisons-sometimes for decades-instead of enforcing rights, which is their proper domain.”
Diane Ravitch,
New York University

“Democracy by Decree is a devastating indictment of how high-sounding legal mandates undermine the social goals they purport to guarantee. With fascinating blow-by-blow accounts, Sandler and Schoenbrod expose how advocates for one interest group inevitably undermine the interests of others and thwart the ability of those in responsibility to balance interests for the common good.”
Philip K. Howard,
Author of The Death of Common Sense

“Sandler and Schoenbrod's account-really a discovery-of the existence of a second government in our midst is meticulous, nuanced, and alarming. By showing how unilateral judicial government undermines both democracy and individual rights, they have done a significant service to both.”
—Christopher DeMuth,
president, American
Enterprise Institute