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William Kunstler
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    (July 7, 1919-September 4, 1995)
    Born in New York City, New York
    Board member of the ACLU
    Co-founder of the Law Center for Constitutional Rights (1966)
    Clients included the Chicago Seven, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Angela Davis, Lenny Bruce, H. Rap Brown, Stokeley Carmichael, Daniel and Philip Berrigan, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Assata Shakur and Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman
    Wrote 'First Degree' (1960), 'Beyond a Reasonable Doubt?' (1961), 'The Case for Courage' (1962), 'And Justice for All' (1963), 'Trials and Tribulations' (1985) and 'My Life as a Radical Lawyer' (1994)
    Cameo appearances in the movies 'The Doors' (1991) and 'Malcolm X' (1992) and the TV series 'Law and Order' (1994)
    He said he went to law school 'for all the wrong reasons: because it offered status, prestige and the promise of a relatively high income.'
    Critics called him a publicity hound and said that he was better at courtroom rhetoric than doing his legal homework on cases.
    He admitted that his antics in the Chicago Seven trial, which got him four years worth of conempt citations (overturned on appeal), were 'pretty shrill.'
    Vanity Fair called him 'the most hated lawyer in America.'
    In the 90s, as he took on clients like World Trade Center bombing mastermind Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman and subway shooter Colin Ferguson, Alan Dershowitz said, 'This man ran out of causes a long time ago, and he's veered into dubious areas.'
    A former ACLU director said, 'You just want to tell him that it's not 1969 anymore. People can't live in a time warp.'
    He served in the Pacific theater in World War II, earning a Bronze Star.
    He became a prominent civil rights lawyer in the 60s, initially defending arrested Freedom Riders.
    His response to claims of being a publicity hound was, 'I enjoy the spotlight, as most humans do, but it's not my whole raison d'etre. My purpose is to keep the state from becoming all-dominating, all-powerful.'
    During the Chicago Seven trial, he reported to the judge that a letter had arrived for Abbie Hoffman that appeared to contain marijuana. When the judge asked if he could deal with the matter without involving the court, he solemnly replied, 'Your Honor, I will personally see that it is burned this evening.'
    Because he frequently worked pro bono for causes he believed in, he earned far less than he could from his legal work.

Credit: C. Fishel

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