Professor Frank Deale has taught at CUNY School of Law since 1989. Prior to entering academia, he served in multiple roles at the Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York based, nonprofit legal organization committed to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This interview was conducted by a CUNY Law Black Law Students Association (BLSA) member.
What’s new and exciting in your classes this semester?
The biggest challenge this semester will undoubtedly be to keep my two Civil Procedure sections in sync when one class meets for 3 hours a week, and the other class meets for 4. My prediction is that this will be a fail.
Have you heard from any former students recently?
I like to think that I have close contact with alums. I have donated money to an alum who is running for state assembly. My [academic] skills teachers are alums. I love the calls from alums who are hashing out issues in practice that we discussed years ago in class—this happens quite frequently and keeps me in touch with practice. I always see alums at the Practising Law Institute (PLI) continuing legal education programs. They are there earning credits and teaching many of the seminars.
It’s Black History Month. What’s top of mind for you right now?
Struggle. Not between Cornel West and Ta-Nehisi Coates, which seems to have been an obsession with the Left, but the struggle against Donald Trump, as I await his latest racial inflammation to celebrate Black History Month.
If you could recruit anyone to guest lecture in your class, who would it be – and what would they talk about?
That’s a no-brainer. It would be Cornel West to discuss the extreme challenges we face at this time in our history.
Before teaching, did you have any other jobs or experiences that might surprise us?
What surprises people is that I have only had two full-time, professional legal jobs since graduating from law school last century. Most people know that I came here from the Center for Constitutional Rights, where I served as staff attorney, associate legal director and legal director, and received my political legal education. From there I came to CUNY Law and have been here ever since.
What are you reading?
Don’t even get me started on my reading, as I read numerous books at once. But to answer your question, two of those I am currently reading are The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage by Todd Gitlin and Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes.
What can’t you let go of? Is there anything that holds you enthralled, that you want to keep on people’s radar, or that is keeping you up at night?
I can’t wait until it warms up, and I can get back into riding my bike up and down the West Side Promenade. I am sad to say I stay up at night consumed with anger at what Donald Trump and the Republican Party are doing to the people of the United States, and the world. I am grateful for Twitter, which connects me with thousands who feel the same way and are doing something about it.
Do you have any favorite places on or around campus?
If I have some free hours in this neighborhood, weather permitting, I go down to the waterfront to enjoy the outdoors. I am still slowly discovering eating places around here, and I am elated by the opening of the local Book Culture bookstore.
If you were making a career time capsule with three to five things in it, including representations of your past and your aspirations, what might you include?
Getting money out of politics; getting politicians on top of climate change; fixing or replacing capitalism; ending race and gender hierarchies. Retirement is not in sight.