Page 19


Backbreaking work of Movement lawyer taken on and beaten the poo-bahs of Texas lawyerdom. We did not win them all, of course. In the fall of 1969, a young army private at Hood refused to accept training in civilian mob control conducted in the wake of the Chicago Democratic convention the summer before. Our private refused to train with clubs, tear gas, bayonets, and other weapons. Earlier the Army had short-circuited his request for noncombatant status as a conscientious objector. He was given a general courtmartial at Fort Hood in December of 1969. After a highly political trial, he was convicted and went on to serve three years at Leavenworth. In my early days as a Movement lawyer, I often felt isolated and always overwhelmed. But there was a sense of purpose that I found lacking in the ordinary practice of law. Sometimes, though, in the grind of long hours and high pressure, I would lose the vital spirit. Once, up in Dallas, I was involved in a suit seeking to force SMU to allow Jerry Rubin and others to speak on campus at the same time John Mitchell was on campus to dedicate the new law library. We had been hard at it all week, bouncing between federal and state court. I was exhausted and discouraged when I spoke long-distance to Arthur Kinoy, the dean of radical lawyers, who helped mastermind the suit. Sensing my sagging energy and spirit, he asked me how I was feeling. I gave a noncommittal reply. Kinoy said, “It’s good to fight ’em, ya know?” That terse pep talk was enough to get me back into it with vigor. Hill Country confrontation My sense of isolation lessened as the Movement attracted more and more lawyers. Which brings me to the Wimberley Conference. Held in 1969 to recruit lawyers for the Movement, the conference was another adventure in innovative organizing born of late night drinks in the back room. Surprisingly, it attracted hundreds of lawyers to meet with Movement people at a dude ranch in the Texas Hill Country. There, Movement people laid a heavy rhetorical rap on the errantly bourgeois lawyers who in turn pontificated, cautioned, hedged, and drank at an open whiskey bar before retreating to a lawyersonly meeting to see if they could make sense of what was being asked of them. Both sides seemed to be saying, “Do it our way.” As far as I could tell, it was a standoff. By this time there were big names on the Movement lawyer circuit. Some came to Wimberley. Charles Garry was there. Kunstler gave the keynote speech, but may be best remembered for his amorous forays into the “Movement Bunkhouse” the evening before. \(To this day Kunstler gets a gleam in his eye at a panel discussion with Bernadine Dohrn. In general, the conference was something of a wild melee. The organizers were left with a dude ranch in sham bles and a deficit of $1700, mostly for whiskey. It was not all for naught. Wimberley brought Cam Cunningham back to Texas from the Navaho Indian reservation where he had been a legal services lawyer since fmishing UT law school in 1967. He, too, thirsted for relevance. In the fall of 1969, we formed the second known law commune in the country, and that winter found ourselves defending the UT students involved in the great Chuck Wagon “riot.” In the fall of 1970, Brady Coleman came loping into town from East Texas, where he had been drydocked in a straight civil practice with an established firm. He joined us. In 1972, Bobby Jane Nelson and John Howard came into the fold. Biding our time The revolution we talked about several years ago is yet to happen. But there has been .a revolution of sorts within the legal profession over these last ten years. This has created an irony. When I started there was, in a true sense, a Movement badly in need of legal defense and succor in its confrontations with the system. Most lawyers did not respond, either out of their profession’s well-known conservatism or faintheartedness. Today responsive lawyers are plentiful, but there is no Movement. There are still people committed to social change, struggling where and how they may, but the mass mobilizations for change that rumbled throughout the land from Port Huron to the May Day demonstrations in Washington are gone, not likely to return. I’m not sure what it means, if anything, to be a Movement lawyer today. The phrase is probably obsolete, attached as it is to a specific time and place. But there will be another Movement someday. The experience of it will be different from ours, though the basic struggle will remain the same. Some of us will bide our time and go on in civil rights, criminal, consumer and labor law. Yet the instincts and motives that brought people into Movement law won’t disappear. 0 attorney. February 25, 1977 21 “I’m not sure what it means, if anything, to be a Movement lawyer today. The phrase is probably obsolete, attached as it is to a specific time and place. Yet the instincts and motives that brought people into Movement law won’t disappear.”