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August 27: Attorney for the Counterculture

August 26, 2015

Leonard_WeinglassAttorney Leonard Weinglass was born in Belleville, New Jersey on this date in 1933. Weinglass was a leading progressive lawyer and constitutional expert, whose defense cases included the Chicago 8 trial (1968); the Pentagon Papers trial of Daniel Ellsberg and Anthony Russo (acquitted in 1973); Angela Davis’ prosecution for abetting murder in George Jackson’s courtroom escape attempt (acquitted in 1970); Kathy Boudin’s prosecution for murder as a member of the Weather Underground (convicted in 1984); the trial of John Sinclair, chair of the White Panther Party in Detroit, on marijuana charges (jailed in 1969, released in 1971); and numerous others, including the ongoing case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. Weinglass earned his law degree at Yale and began his career as a lawyer for the U.S. Air Force before taking on a practice in Newark, NJ where he worked alongside Tom Hayden and other radical activists. “That was a rough place to be,” said his friend and fellow leftwing attorney Michael Krinsky. “A police department and a city administration that was racist and as terrifying as any in America, and there was Lenny representing civil rights people, political people, ordinary people who got charged with stuff and got beat up by the cops. He did it without fame or fortune, and that’s what he kept doing, in one way or another.” Weinglass died at 77; the New York Times obituary called him “perhaps the nation’s pre-eminent progressive defense lawyer.”

“The typical call I get is the one that starts by saying ‘You are the fifth attorney we’ve called.’ Then I get interested.” —Leonard Weinglass