convention. Outside, at the bandstand next to the Alamo, the radicals listened to Wiliam Kuntsler. The juxtaposition of the two men spoke eloquently to the political tensions of the time. The radicals and the lawyers were still uneasy together. The free flow of drugs and liquor in the caucus’ hospitality suite at the Menger Hotel lessened the tension but failed to enhance communication, since most of the lawyers were drunk while the radicals were stoned. The Mexican American Youth Organization, MAYO, introduced a whole new level of guilt-tripping by picketing a caucus luncheon at Mario’s Restaurant in West San Antonio. “Radical lawyers a farce.” “White radicals racist,” their signs proclaimed. The chicanos were invited to lunch so they could air their grievances in greater detail. One told the lawyers, “If you’re with us, you will give us everything you have. You’ll sell your house and move to the barrio.” Such criticism was taken to heart by idealistic young lawyers in 1970, but not too seriously. That evening a few of us slipped away to La Louisiane for what my friends Shelia Cheany, Ed Mallett, and I now remember nostalgically as “The Last French Meal Before the Revolution.” David Berg, already suitably flush after only a year of practicing law in Houston, treated us all to dinner. Then we slunk guiltily back to the Alamo with escargot on our breaths to listen to more harrangues about how middle-class dogooders should pawn their worldly goods and move to the barrio. Alas, the Revolution was not as imminent as predicted and I have enjoyed countless more decadent meals with the lawyers I fell in with more than a decade ago. We have landed on a secondary theme here the moral absurdity of our simultaneous quest for economic justice and bourgeois luxury. I can still claim to be relatively pure because a journalist’s pittance does not allow for many indulgences. Someone still has to pay for my dinners at La Lou. But my lawyer friends, now well launched in their careers, are enjoying the advanced pleasures of new Mercedes and beach-front condos. One of my favorite barristers, whose anonymity I shall protect, recently rented a Lear Jet to fly to a Meeting of the Texas Civil Liberties Union. The lawyers held another rump caucus in conjunction with the Bar Convention in Dallas in 1971, but many of the rump delegates also attended the organizational meeting of a new Bar section modeled after the Individual Rights and Responsibilities Section of the American Bar Association. The Texas IRR was the brainchild of Dave Richards with the assistance of UT law professor Roy Mersky and a few other fellow-travelers. Richards remembers, “1 wanted the Bar to give some protective coloration to the politically-active lawyers, and I wanted to set up a communications network of like-minded lawyers.” The Bar directors rather reluctantly accepted Richards’ foundling. According to the by-laws, The IRR was established “to study and report on laws, decisions, and government regulations as they may affect enforcement of individual rights and the meeting of individual responsibilities under the rule of law, to provide a common meeting ground and forum for “One of the great moments in IRR history was the year the section invited Fidel Castro to speak at the Bar convention.” members of the profession and for consideration of problems with respect to the enjoyment of individual rights within the American constitutional system. . . .” It’s purpose is similar to that of the ACLU. Most of the lawyers who attended the rump caucuses of 1970 and 1971 joined the IRR. With the end of the war in Viet Nam and the resignation of Richard’Nixon, political tensions-lessened and the radical movement ran aground. The distinction between “radical” and “liberal” blurred, then disappeared. But, regardless of label, the members of the IRR retained some complusion to tinker with society’s big issues. Many still resent the fact they are bound by Texas law to pay dues to the Bar. As a result, one of the continuing goals of the IRR is to make the Bar leadership squirm just a little. One of the great moments in IRR history was the year the section invited Fidel Castro to speak at the Bar Convention. Castro was otherwise disposed, but speakers who had accepted the IRR’s invitation include Charles Garry and Margo St. James, president of COYOTE, the prostitute’s lobby. Every year, the IRR faithfully presents a series of resolutions that are roundly defeated by the Bar’s Resolutions Committee. The proposal to decriminalize marijuana possession is an IRR staple. Other resolutions have condemned conditions in Texas prisons and mental institutions; endorsed a moratorium on nuclear power plants and a nuclear arms freeze; and opposed the state death pen alty and wiretapping statutes. The single IRR-endorsed resolution adopted by the Bar membership concerned restoration of voting rights to ex-felons. In 1974, the Bar Board of Directors not only voted disapproval of the IRR’s resolutions \(including one censuring Richard Nixon for commenting on the merits of pending criminal litigation during a news the section’s report in the Texas Bar Journal. It would be easy to dismiss the IRR as a quaint throwback to the short-lived New Left movement. But when the accomplishment of the IRR members are toted up the work over the past decade in representing indigents and the politically disenfranchised, in taking up the cudgel for civil liberties, in looking at least part of the time beyond the fast buck to the responsibilities of making this democracy work, these lawyers have made a difference. A few minutes ago I was on the phone to Brady Coleman, the next co-chairman of the IRR. He’s off this week to New York to participate in the nuclear disarmament demonstrations. I’ll bet my old “Make Love, Not War” bumper sticker that there’s not another Bar officer fixin’ to march. El Kaye Northcott is a former Observer editor. The $10 Program We invite organizations and individuals to sell new one-year Observer subscriptions. For each subscription the selling organization or individual will receive $10 commission. Like most publications, the Observer spends almost that obtaining a new subscription by mail. We prefer, however, that the money go to hard-working groups or individuals instead of to the post office and paper companies. Organizations and individuals authorized to sell subscriptions under the program will be provided with forms and sample copies. The only requirement is that individuals who wish to try this must have their own subscription paid up at the regular $20 rate. Commissions on subscriptions to be billed will be paid on receipt of the bill payment. Neither renewals nor subscriptions for a period shorter than a year receive commissions. If you want to take part in this program, contact the Observer at 600 W. 7th St.. Austin, Tx. 78701, or phone 512-477-0746. No PAC’s or campaigns, please. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9
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