PASSINGS: Ronald Dworkin, Alan Sharp

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Ronald Dworkin

Constitutional law expert and liberal scholar

Ronald Dworkin, 81, an American philosopher, constitutional law expert and liberal scholar who argued that the law should be founded on moral integrity, died Thursday of leukemia in London, his family said.


Dworkin, a professor of law at New York University and professor emeritus at University College London, was one of the best known and most quoted legal scholars in the United States and also an expert on British law.

Dworkin was best known for the idea that the most important virtue the law can display is integrity — understood as the moral idea that the state should act on principle so each member of the community is treated as an equal.

A frequent contributor to the New York Review of Books, Dworkin’s own works included “A Matter of Principle,” “Law’s Empire” and “Justice for Hedgehogs.”

He argued in his writings that acting with dignity and moral clarity could make life worthwhile.

“If we manage to live a good life well, we create something more,” he wrote. “We write a subscript to our mortality. We make our lives tiny diamonds in the cosmic sands.”

Born Dec. 11, 1931, Dworkin grew up in Providence, R.I. He attended Harvard College as an undergraduate, received his law degree from Harvard in 1957 and was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford University in England.


He told the Guardian newspaper two years ago that he did not know how to judge his life’s work.

“I’ve tried to be responsible for my decisions and to make an authentic life,” he said. “When I was a Wall Street lawyer, I realized I didn’t want that life. So I went and did what I found most fulfilling, thinking about, arguing for the things that are hard, important and rewarding. I’ve tried to do it well. I can’t say if I’ve succeeded.”

Alan Sharp

Screenwriter worked on ‘Night Moves’ and ‘Rob Roy’

Alan Sharp, 79, a screenwriter known for his dark perspective and complicated plotting in the 1975 Arthur Penn thriller “Night Moves” and other films, died Feb. 8 at his daughter’s home in Los Angeles after a long illness, Creative Artists Agency announced.

According to critics, the Scottish-born Sharp also smartly adapted Sir Walter Scott’s swashbuckling “Rob Roy” to the big screen in 1995 with Liam Neeson portraying the Scottish folk hero of the title.


In the 1970s, Sharp displayed an affinity for westerns, writing the screenplay for “The Hired Hand,” a laconic film that Peter Fonda starred in and directed, and other movies that included the stark and violent “Ulzana’s Raid,” which featured Burt Lancaster as an idealistic cavalry lieutenant.

Sharp once called “Ulzana’s Raid,” written as an allegory against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, his favorite movie project.

Born Jan. 12, 1934, to a single mother, he was adopted as an infant by a shipyard worker and his wife. At 14, Sharp dropped out of school to work in the shipyards.

After a series of odd jobs, he spent two years in the British national service and then moved to London, intent on becoming a writer.

His first novel, “A Green Tree in Gedde” (1965), was banned by some public libraries in Scotland for its sexual content. He followed it two years later with another novel, “The Wind Shifts,” before turning to Hollywood and screenwriting.

Sharp worked on about 30 movie and television projects between 1963 and 2010, the year he wrote the teleplay for the miniseries “Ben Hur.” He wrote and directed “Little Treasure” (1985), starring Margot Kidder, and penned the conspiracy drama “The Osterman Weekend” (1995).


— Los Angeles Times staff and wire reports