Page 18


response. Maury Maverick and other lawyer friends in San Antonio were sure I’d be disbarred. The appeal was argued in October, 1975, before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. The judges reversed the conviction and ordered the indictment dismissed, excoriating the prosecutor, who took the heat for the trial judge. Basement office My first piece of Movement work was also a draft case involving a conscientious objector, the first such to be tried in Austin. It was back in 1968, when I didn’t even know where to find the law which established and governed the Selective Service system. My client had returned his draft card to his local board with some imaginative instructions for what could be done with it. He was immediately ordered to report for induction. I was practicing alone out of a basement office across from the courthouse in Austin, scraping by on subsistence fees. I had just quit a good government job in 0E0 \(remember the War on Povagency had fought briefly and faintly to maintain its integrity, but they lost. Nixon was about to become president and complete its demise. The big word in those days was “relevant”; I wanted to be relevant to the times, to the burgeoning antiwar movement, to the larger struggle for social justice. I’d become convinced that going to precinct meetings and participating in traditional white-gloved politics of liberalism would not cut it. There was a growing student movement and draft resistance was in full gear. Fees may have been scarce but clients in need of lawyers were all over the place.. After I won that draft case at the trial, people began trouping regularly through the office from all parts of the state. In May of 1968, 32 University of Texas students were busted in the Weedon demonstration. I spent a day winning their release and later enjoined prosecution by filing a federal suit against the police and the prosecutor. When the injunction was dissolved nearly a year later, many were tried for unlawful assembly under statutes no longer on the books. The “Weedon 32” 20 The Texas Observer was a coalition of Movement organizationsSDS, SNCC, and chicano grOups. Practically overnight I became the lawyer for all of them. Never had I been so relevant, or so loaded down. I was with my clients constantlyin the streets, at meetings and parties. There was lots of what was called “street law.” It meant going to demonstrations, rallies, love-ins, teach-ins, whatever, and giving on-the-spot legal advice, dealing with cops, following the police vans to jail, arranging bail. The authorities’ standard response to demonstrations was mass arrest. Certain leaders were subject to incarceration at any time on whatever charge could be found, from bad checks to traffic tickets. I was on call 24 hours a. day. In addition to SDS, SNCC, and draft resistance organizations, there were any number of counterculture groups springing up in what was really becoming a Movement community. There was the underground newspaper, the Rag, Greenbriar School, the Vulcan Gas Company \(Austin’s first rock music emco-ops. I did the legal work for many of them. G.I. movement As if there were not enough going on in Austin to keep the cadre of sympathetic lawyers busy, there was also the GI ferment at Fort Hood. Organizing within the military was going strong. A collective of Movement types was living and working hard in Killeen near the huge Army base. They ran a coffee shop, the Oleo Strut, and put out an underground newspaper for GIs called the Fatigue Press. If a vote had ever been taken at Hood, I believe the dissidents would have won. There was serious protest building among the troops, and plenty of work for lawyers. On the base there were courts-martial; downtown, arrests of Movement people on trumped-up marijuana charges and endless hassles over permits for parades and use of the city park for antiwar rallies. The Oleo Strut set up a room in the back for me to interview GIs with legal problems. Strapped for time, I recruited several law students to help screen cases. One of them was Jeff Friedman, now mayor of Austin. There was plenty of the other kind of law, the kind where you put on a suit and Simons leaves his Austin office tie and went to court. I had a fairly busy criminal practice then, but also took on civil rights cases and police brutality work. Perhaps most personally satisfying was Radical Lawyers Caucus v. State Bar of Texas. By 1970, there were a handful of legal practitioners across the state who could be accurately called radical lawyers. We formed a caucus and made plans to go to the State Bar convention in San Antonio that July. William Kunstler, a national Movement lawyer fresh from the Chicago Seven trial, was the featured speaker of our program, which went on outside the regular convention proceedings. `When in doubt, sue’ Before the convention we tried to place a paid ad in the Texas Bar Journal to announce the formation of our caucus and Kunstler’s speech in front of the Alamo. The ad was rejected for publication for cryptic reasons, which varied from spokesman to spokesman for the State Bar. But veteran Movement lawyers have a saying: “When in doubt, sue.” And that’s what we did. We filed against our own bar association in federal court in Austin, where, on the day of the hearing, I found myself at one counsel table while around the other sat some of the biggest names in the Texas legal establishment. Chief counsel for the Bar was Donald Thomas, LBJ’s personal lawyer. The judge ruled that the State Bar’s rejection of the ad violated our rights under the First Amendment of the Constitution. To the dismay of many, our rag-tag Radical Lawyers Caucus had “I wanted to be relevant to the times, to the burgeoning antiwar movement, to the larger struggle for social justice. I’d become convinced that going to precinct meetings and the traditional white-gloved politics of liberalism would not cut it.”