The National Lawyers Guild mourns yesterday’s passing of an extraordinary criminal defense and civil rights attorney, Leonard I. Weinglass. A long-time member of the Guild, he now joins the pantheon of great lawyers who have devoted their careers to making human rights more sacred than property interests.
Weinglass graduated from Yale Law School in 1958 and went on to defend some of the most significant political cases of the century. He represented Tom Hayden of Students for a Democratic Society when Hayden was indicted in the Newark riots. During the Vietnam War, he represented Anthony Russo in the Pentagon Papers case, and in 1969 he co-counseled in the Chicago Seven case, with the eventual overturning of the guilty verdicts. He also represented Jane Fonda in her suit against Richard Nixon, Puerto Rican independence fighters Los Macheteros, and eight Palestinian organizers facing deportation known as the LA 8.
When he represented Amy Carter in 1987 after her arrest for protesting CIA recruitment, Weinglass told the Hampshire County District court, “the students’ reaction in that incident was the reaction any right-thinking American, peace-loving American, would have in the face of the serious harm the agency has done.”
Weinglass served as lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal, who has been on death row for nearly 30 years. Other well-known clients included former Weatherman Kathy Boudin, Angela Davis when she was charged with murder for the Marin County shootout, and Antonio Guerrero, one of the Cuban Five. He also represented Bill and Emily Harris, members of the Symbionese Liberation Army who were charged with the kidnapping of Patricia Hearst.
The National Lawyers Guild honored Weinglass on several occasions, including at its 2003 national convention with the Ernie Goodman Award. “For most lawyers, the work that Len did on any one of countless cases would be the achievement of a lifetime, not just for the brilliance of his advocacy but also for the causes he espoused and the passion with which he fought,” said Guild President David Gespass.
The National Lawyers Guild, founded in 1937, is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. The Guild’s headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in every state.