William Kunstler Movies and Career Information

William Kunstler profile image
Cancer
Jul 07, 1919
New York City
Actor
William Moses Kunstler was an American self-described "radical lawyer" and civil rights activist, known for his violent clients. Kunstler was a board member of the American Civil Liberties Union and the co-founder of the Law Center for Constitutional Rights, the "leading gathering place for radical lawyers in the country". Kunstler's defense of the "Chicago Seven" from 1969–1970 led The New York Times to label him "the country's most controversial and, perhaps, its best-known lawyer ..." Kunstler is also well known for defending members of the Catonsville Nine, Black Panther Party, Weather Underground Organization, the Attica Prison rioters, and the American Indian Movement. He also won a de facto segregation case regarding the District of Columbia's public schools and "disinterred, singlehandedly" the concept of federal removal jurisdiction in the 1960s. Kunstler refused to defend right-wing groups such as the Minutemen, on the grounds that: "I only defend those whose goals I share. I'm not a lawyer for hire. I only defend those I love." He was a polarizing figure; many on the right wished to see him disbarred, while many on the left admired him as a "symbol of a certain kind of radical lawyer." Even some other civil rights lawyers regarded Kunstler as a "publicity hound and a hit-and-run lawyer" who "brings cases on Page 1 and wins them on Page 68." Legal writer Sidney Zion quipped that Kunstler was "one of the few lawyers in town who knows how to talk to the press. His stories always check out and he's not afraid to talk to you, and he's got credibility—although you've got to ask sometimes, 'Bill, is it really true?'"

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