Robert E. Herzstein Dies; His Records of Mexico–U.S. Business Committee Reside at the Benson
Attorney Robert E. Herzstein has died at the age of 83. Herzstein served as lead counsel to Mexico in negotiations over the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which went into effect in 1994.
The Benson Latin American Collection holds the Robert E. Herzstein Records of the Mexico–U.S. Business Committee. These materials, consisting of 14.5 linear feet of press clippings, industry testimony, and U.S. government policy advisory reports, document NAFTA's development and implementation during the years 1991–1996.
According to a February 17 obituary in the New York Times, Herzstein is perhaps best known for successfully suing "on behalf of historians and journalists to prevent former President Richard M. Nixon from removing and even destroying his White House papers and tapes after his resignation."
The Times reports that as a lawyer at Arnold & Porter, Herzstein was lead council in 1974 for a group of historians, political scientists, and journalists who were challenging an agreement that Nixon had struck with the government allowing him to remove records created during his presidency and take them with him to his home in California.
Working pro bono along with several associates, Herzstein succeeded in persuading Congress to pass legislation requiring that the records be seized and preserved, yielding 42 million pages of documents and 880 recordings.
During his career, Herzstein also served as Under Secretary for International Trade at the U.S. Department of Commerce during the Jimmy Carter administration. According to the Washington Post, he was a founding board member of the Appleseed Foundation, "a Washington-based nonprofit that works on legal and social justice issues," and also held leadership positions in international human rights organizations.
A memorial service will be held for Herzstein on April 19 in Washington, DC. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that people consider a contribution to Partners for Democratic Change (www.partnersglobal.org) or the Appleseed Foundation (www.appleseednetwork.org).
Christian Kelleher, archivist at the Benson Latin Americana Collection, wrote an article about the Herzstein papers in the 2006–2007 edition of Portal, published at the time by the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies at The University of Texas at Austin.
Image courtesy of Kristeen LaBrot Events