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July 2: Victor Rabinowitz, Radical Lawyer

July 2, 2013
Vic-BookjacketVictor Rabinowitz, a founder of the National Lawyers Guild in 1937 and a defender of many left-wing heroes in American courts, was born in Brooklyn on this date in 1911. Rabinowitz was a long-time law partner with Leonard Boudin, and among their roster of clients were Paul Robeson, Alger Hiss, Benjamin Spock, Julian Bond, Philip Berrigan, Daniel Ellsberg, Dashiell Hammett, the Black Panthers, Jimmy Hoffa, the government of Chile under Salvador Allende, several labor unions, the Cuban government since June 1960, and Kathy Boudin (Leonard Boudin’s daughter) of the Weather Underground. Rabinowitz, Boudin and their partners also represented huge numbers of leftists in testimony before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee, and hundreds of draft resisters during the Vietnam War. The son of a long-time socialist immigrant who became wealthy by inventing bra-strap hooks, Rabinowitz was a member of the Communist Party from 1942 until the 1960s, a stance he defended in his 1996 memoir, Unrepentant Leftist. In 1967 he became president of the National Lawyers Guild and rebuilt it for the upcoming generation of progressive attorneys. In the course of his long career — he died at 96 in 2007 — he argued several cases before the Supreme Court. “I had always adhered to a few basic rules. I would not represent a landlord against a tenant; I would not represent a drug dealer; I would not represent an employer against a union; I would not represent a fascist or right-wing institution.” --Victor Rabinowitz