A sociology ph.d. becomes a New York state legislator and New York Supreme Court judge

Since students often ask what students can do with sociology degrees, I like to write about sociology majors (like Ronald Reagan) or sociologists who go on to intriguing careers. Here is another case: a sociologist who became a New York Supreme Court judge.

Sidney H. Asch, a New York judge with a Ph.D. in sociology who wrote scholarly works about civil liberties and made notable decisions about landlord-tenant law, employment of gay people and a man’s right to get his hair cut in a women’s beauty salon, died on Sept. 1 in a nursing home in North Carolina. He was 92…

Judge Asch, who wrote eight books, was modest about his academic credentials when he began his public career as a member of the State Assembly in 1952, and he seemed almost apologetic about them when interviewed a few years later, after he had won election to a Democratic Party leadership position in the Bronx…

Notwithstanding his effort to blend in, The Times found a scholar’s rise in city politics so unusual that it put its article about his election on the front page under the headline “Democrats Pick Ph.D. Egghead as District Leader in the Bronx.”…

In his decade in the Assembly, Judge Asch, who earned his doctorate from the New School for Social Research, promoted legislation to ban corporal punishment in schools and to require that cigarette packaging carry health warnings. Neither bill passed — though the objectives would later be met — before he left in 1961 to accept appointment as a New York City municipal court judge.

Sounds like an interesting career. I wonder if Asch ever spoke openly about how sociology influenced the decisions he made as a legislator or judge.

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