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A Salute to the IRR State Bar stepchild is making a difference By Kaye Northcott Austin On this, the 100th anniversary of the State Bar of Texas, I would like to offer a salute, of sorts, to the Individual Rights and Responsibilities Section of the Bar. The IRR is an obscure stepchild of the Texas legal establishment, the one section of the Bar dedicated not to bread and butter issues such as antitrust regulations and mineral law but to the exercise and pursuit of civil liberties. It is not what one would call a workhorse of a committee. The section meetings, which I occasionally attend because I am friendly with the members, have been held on a train to Laredo and in a mountain cabin in northern New Mexico. There is usually champagne and some high silliness. Other than the yearly attempt and yearly failure at the state Bar convention to pass resolutions promoting nuclear disarmament, decriminalizing marijuana possession, and condemning prison brutality, the IRR doesn’t actually do much. But it provides a gathering point for leftwing lawyers who have never before had so much as a toellold in the Bar structure. The story of how the IRR came to be is closely tied to the history of the New Left in Texas. In the late sixties, there was an explosion of leftwing activism followed inevitably by a concussion of rightwing repression. The underground press \(The Rag in Austin, Notes in Dallas, and Space City subjected to police raids and young peacenicks were arrested under vagrancy laws. The drug statutes \(so stiff that a Texan could be sent to prison for as a form of political harassment. In 1968 there were probably not five lawyers in Texas representing political dissidents when Martin Wiginton, an Austin lawyer who had abandoned the practice of law to become a full-time radical, started looking for help. Fred \(“The fense at the University of Texas Law School, tried but failed to get the Law School to sponsor a conference on legal services for political dissidents, but that came to naught. Instead, they raised a little money to bring lawyers together 8 JULY 9, 1982 with movement people at the Holiday Hills Corral Resort near Wimberley. Approximately 100 lawyers, law students, and political activists gathered by the Blanco River. Among the lawyers were Cohen; David R. Richards, a labor lawyer soon to become the Texas Observer’s patient landlord; prison rights attorney Francess Freeman Jalet; Maury Maverick, Jr., of San Antonio, who was one of the few lawyers in the state representing draft resisters; Sam Houston Clinton, the Observer’s other landlord, now on the Court of Criminal .Apeals; Davis Bragg, who represented military dissidents in Killeen; Charles Garry of San Francisco, attorney for the Black “In 1968 there were probably not five lawyers in Texas representing political dissidents. Panthers and the Communist Party, and William Kunstler, attorney for the Chicago Seven. Law students included Jeff Friedman, later mayor of Austin; David G. Hall, now director of Texas Rural Legal Aid; and Shelia Enid Cheaney, who has since lobbied for Common Cause and the Texas Women’s Political Caucus. Among the participants from the movement were writers Greg Calvert, Carol Nieman, and Philip Russell, UT philosophy professor Larry Caroline, black activist Ernie McMillian, Bernadine Dorn \(later to go underground as a white man associated with a group of black militants in Houston. Three years later he was successfuly defended on an assult to murder charge by Wimberley participant Cam Cunningham and his the conference was duly noted in the files of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. One of the major issues at the conference was whether the attorney or the defendant should direct the defense in a political case. The debate became so rancorous that the attorneys and the radi cals split into separate caucuses. Warren Burnett of Odessa drafted a statement expressing the attorneys’ point of view. The lawyers, it said, were willing to represent radical defendants on the lawyers’ own terms and it that wasn’t satisfactory, “in the idiom of the movement, `fuck ” There was also a small matter of a $1700 deficit from the conference, which Wiginton naturally expected the lawyers to defray. In Dave Richards’ file on the conference is a wonderful letter from Lawyer Burnett to Fred Cohen which stated in part, “All lawyers should be shamed by the effect on non-lawyers to make up the needed money. . . . The capacity of the Movement to inflict feelings of guilt on middle-aged lawyers is damned close to boundless . . . I scarcely see how a group that spent the better part of two days rejecting an unlikely offer of funds from the Ford Foundation could be well-advised to accept much money from a group of pot-bellied barristers who, for the most part, pack a radicalism too much touched by Rotary.” Burnett nonetheless enclosed $100 with the letter. Burnett was also present for the next lawyer-radical gathering in 1970. That was the year of Kent State, innumerable peace marches, the final subjugation of the University of Texas to its chairman, Frank Erwin, and the bombing of Pacifica Radio in Houston. Janis Joplin came to a party for Kenneth Threadgill in Austin and was dead of a drug overdose a few weeks later. Wiginton organized a radical caucus to be held in conjunction with the Bar Convention in San Antonio that year. A number of Bar members, including Burnett, Maverick, labor lawyer George Dixie of Houston, and Ed Polk of Dallas Legal Services, prepared an advertisement on the caucus for publication in the Texas Bar Journal. The Journal refused to print it. Subsequently, the sponsors took the issue to court and won an order requiring the Journal to publish the ad, but this was months after the convention. In such a climate of intransigence by the Bar, the radical rump convention was a grand success. John Mitchell, Richard Nixon’s later-to-be-indicted attorney general, was the keynoter inside the