[News] Leonard Weinglass (1933-2011)

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Mar 24 12:33:42 EDT 2011

Leonard Weinglass (1933-2011)
by John Mage


Leonard Weinglass, a leading leftwing lawyer in the United States 
with an international perspective, died in the early evening on March 
23, 2011.  Len, who died on his 78th birthday, fell ill in late 
January while in Cuba.  In the first days of February exploratory 
surgery at Montefiore Hospital discovered that he had inoperable 
cancer of the pancreas.

Lenny, a 1958 graduate of Yale Law School, became active in the U.S. 
left lawyers' organization, the National Lawyers Guild, in the course 
of the civil rights movements of the 1960s.  He rose to fame as 
co-counsel with Bill Kunstler in the Chicago Seven (originally 
Chicago Eight) conspiracy trial of 1969-70.  The seven defendants -- 
Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, David Dellinger, Tom Hayden, Rennie 
Davis, John Froines, and Lee Weiner -- were charged with conspiracy, 
inciting to riot, and other charges arising from the mass protests in 
Chicago, Illinois at the time of the 1968 Democratic National 
Convention.  The eighth defendant, Bobby Seale, had repeatedly 
insisted on the trial being delayed to permit his lawyer, Charles 
Garry, then recovering from surgery, to be present.  The Judge, the 
irascible Julius Hoffman, former law partner of Chicago Mayor Richard 
Daley, had Seale bound and gagged in the courtroom when he would not 
cease his protests.  Seale was later severed from the case, but the 
proceedings -- which lasted from April 1969 to February 1970 -- never 
recovered any semblance of justice or dignity.  Judge Hoffman made no 
effort to disguise his open bias for the prosecution, and took a 
particular delight in abusing Len, whose name he claimed not to be 
able to remember, calling him Weinstein, Steinglass, Glassberg, 
etc.  At the close of the trial Len was, along with Bill Kunstler, 
held in contempt by Judge Hoffman.  He always regarded this as an honor.

In the intervening years, Len represented a continuous sequence of 
defendants in political prosecutions in the courts of the United 
States.  A partial list, current to 1995, is available 

I have been co-counsel with Lenny, most recently in 2003 in Article 
78 proceedings in New York State Supreme Court, Albany County, that 
set aside a denial of parole to Kathy Boudin and sent the matter back 
to the Parole Board for a rehearing.  At the subsequent hearing Kathy 
was paroled.  Lenny was a meticulous, well-prepared litigator, and 
with an extraordinary degree of practical wisdom and foresight.  He 
had been counsel for Kathy in the 1983 proceedings that resulted in 
her plea and sentence to twenty years to life, for a politically 
motivated offense.  In the 2003 proceedings we had the extraordinary 
experience of relying with decisive effect on the words that Lenny, 
twenty years before, had fought relentlessly to have inserted into 
the sentencing record.

In his final struggle, Lenny was counsel for Antonio Guerrero, one of 
5, who had infiltrated anti-Castro terrorist organizations in 
Florida.  Tried in a lynch law atmosphere in the Cuban exile 
stronghold of Miami, their convictions were guaranteed.  In a 
magnificent piece of legal work, Lenny -- in practice acting as lead 
counsel for the Cuban 5 -- was able to convince a distinguished panel 
of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit that they had not 
received a fair trial in Miami, and indeed could not have received a 
fair trial there.  In the "war on terror" atmosphere of the Bush 
administration, which continues to this day, this was an outstanding 
achievement.  Not surprisingly, the Justice Department was able to 
get the full bench of the 11th Circuit to reverse the panel.  But in 
the eyes of all but the indoctrinated, the panel's analysis has 
permanently tainted the convictions of the Cuban 5.  It is decisive 
that the U.S. authorities were unable to get even their own judges to 
uphold the convictions in the normal course.  Lenny continued, to his 
last breath, to fight to bring the injustice done to the Cuban 5 to 
the attention of the decent people of the world.

Len was a defense attorney.  He represented clients who did not 
choose to be in court, and who faced the near certainty of conviction 
in political cases in hopelessly biased courts.  Yet, without 
disguising the political nature of the cases nor denying the reality 
of the bias, he worked diligently to pursue every possibility for 
successful defense.  As appellate counsel, none I ever worked with 
surpassed his ability to master every relevant detail of the record 
below, however long and intricate.

Lenny never pursued the monetary rewards his skills would easily have 
made available, were he but to have put politics aside.

His politics were constitutive of his person, and present in every 
waking moment.  His modest office/living loft, his cabin in the 
Catskills, were sufficient for his needs.  To the end he cheerfully, 
and as effectively as was possible, served those who resisted the 
all-pervasive injustice of these United States.

John Mage is Director of the Monthly Review Foundation.

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