National Lawyers Guild Initiates Campaign to Raise Awareness of the Attack on the Puerto Rican Bar Association

March 30, 2010
Susan Scott
NLG International Committee
(916) 849-3695

A delegation of 15 people from the National Lawyers Guild International Committee has just concluded a four day visit to Puerto Rico. After conducting an onsite investigation of the Puerto Rican government's policies aimed at individuals who promote and defend fundamental human rights, the National Lawyers Guild will initiate an informational campaign to inform its U.S. colleagues about the situation there. By meeting with Puerto Rico Bar Association colleagues and community labor leaders, the delegation determined that Laws 121 and 135 of October and November 2009, which eliminate mandatory enrollment in the Bar Association and prohibit the Bar Association from promoting activities that have political or religious content, violate fundamental human rights. This legislation also aims to restrict the Bar Association from associating with groups that receive state funding, violating the right to freedom of expression and association, and violating a fundamental premise of a democratic society—independence of the judicial branch. "The attack on the Bar Association is unprecedented. In the United States, 36 states have compulsory membership, and there has never been an attempt to dismantle a single one of them," said attorney Jeanne Mirer, co-chair of the International Committee of the National Lawyers Guild and president of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL). The Guild hopes, through its campaign, to gain support and solidarity to annul these retrograde laws. The IADL and the American Association of Jurists also plan to participate in this campaign to support the Puerto Rican Bar Association. The National Lawyers Guild was founded in 1937 and is the largest and oldest organization of progressive and public interest lawyers in the U.S. Its national headquarters is in New York, and it has chapters in every state.

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