Alfred Avins, 64, of Washington, a legal scholar, founder of two law schools and author of 80 law review articles and four books, died May 24 in Suburban Hospital in Bethesda of pneumonia resulting from complications that began with surgery to remove a brain tumor in 1994.
Dr. Avins founded the old District of Columbia Law School in 1977 as an outgrowth of his long-held view that legal education was too time-consuming and expensive to allow a broad segment of the population to enter the profession.
He was at constant odds with the American Bar Association over his idea of offering legal education over weekends. Largely because of this conflict and because he believed Virginia was a kinder environment for education, he moved the school to Alexandria in 1980. The college, whose name was changed to Northern Virginia Law School, was authorized to confer the doctor of jurisprudence degree by the Virginia Council of Higher Education in 1982, and it began graduating students that year.
Dr. Avins's wrangles with the ABA continued. The professional body did not want to recognize a weekend law school that charged only $1,800-a-year tuition, according to Kenneth F. Boehm of Arlington, a vice president of the Northern Virginia school and a protege of Dr. Avins's. As a result, the ABA never approved accreditation of the school, the Virginia Council of Higher Education withdrew its permission for the granting of the J.D. degree, and the law school is graduating its last students this spring.
It wasn't Dr. Avins's first brush with the accreditation process and the philosophy of legal education underlying it. A self-described conservative who once told the New York Times that he believed civil rights legislation to be unconstitutional, Dr. Avins founded the Delaware Law School in Wilmington in 1971 in an old Methodist church and watched it flourish for a few years, only to run up against the ABA and the problem of accreditation. An ABA team visited the school in 1974 and reported that the school, because of enrollment and library considerations, did not merit accreditation. The school's board of directors, although appointed by Dr. Avins, determined that the main obstacle was Dr. Avins, himself, and it forced his resignation, according to an account in the Times.
A new dean was able to merge the Delaware Law School with Widnener College, of Chester, Pa., and the surviving Widener Law School was accredited shortly thereafter.
Dr. Avins was born June 29, 1934, in New York City. He received a bachelor's degree in political science from City University of New York in 1954, an Ll.B from Columbia University, a master's in law and a doctorate in law from the University of Chicago and a PhD from Cambridge University in England.
He was professor of law at Memphis State University, associate professor of law at Chicago-Kent Law School, assistant district attorney in Manhattan, staff counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee under Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), appellate attorney for the National Labor Relations Board and, until founding the Delaware Law School, worked for the American Law Institute in Washington.
After his health failed in 1994, Dr. Avins moved from Washington to Hebrew Home of Greater Washington in Rockville.
There are no immediate survivors.