William M. Kunstler: The Most Hated Lawyer in America

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NYU Press, 1999 - Biography & Autobiography - 452 pages
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Alternately vilified as a publicity-seeking egoist and lauded as a rambunctious, fearless advocate, William Kunstler consistently embodied both of these qualities.

Kunstler's unrelenting, radical critique of American racism and the legal system took shape as a result of his efforts to enlist the federal judicial system to support the civil rights movement. In the late 60s and the 70s, Kunstler, refocusing his attention on the Black Power and anti-war movement, garnered considerable public attention as defender of the Chicago Seven, and went on to represent such controversial figures as Leonard Peltier, the American Indian Movement leader charged with killing an FBI agent, and Jack Ruby, the killer of Lee Harvey Oswald. Later, Kunstler briefly represented Colin Ferguson, the Long Island Railroad mass murderer, outraging fans and detractors alike with his invocation of the infamous "black rage" defense.

Defending those most loathed by mainstream, conventional America, William Kunstler delighted in taking on fiercely political cases, usually representing society's outcasts and pariahs free of charge and often achieving remarkable courtroom results in seemingly hopeless cases. Though Kunstler never gave up his revolutionary underpinnings, he gradually turned from defending clients whose political beliefs he personally supported to taking on apolitical clients, falling back on the broad rationale that his was a general struggle against an oppressive government.

What ideological and tactical motives explain Kunstler's obsessive craving for media attention, his rhetorical flourishes in the courtroom and his instinctive and relentless drive for action? How did Kunstler migrate from a comfortable middle-class background to a life as a staunchly rebellious figure in social and legal history? David Langum's portrait gives depth to the already notorious breadth of William Kunstler's life.


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William M. Kunstler: the most hated lawyer in America

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Cumberland Law School professor Langum's spectacular and thoughtful biography of radical lawyer William Kunstler is distinguished by an even-handed presentation and deep research, which includes ... Read full review

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William Moses Kunstler was a learned man of both U.S. laws and statutes and the global courts as well. He really studied how the law and litigation should be equally applied. in spite of the fact so many vehemently disagreed with his legal analysis. My late father had the pleasure of meeting him at a book signing at Judge Al Higleys butcher/grocery shop in West Hurley, Ulster County New York.
La Chaim Bill!
Maggie Roche


Introductory Images
Family and Early Years
Getting Started in the Law
The Shock of the South
Black Power Advocate
Circus in Chicago
Directions outside the Courtroom
Radical Lawyers in Modern America
Indian Defenses
The 1980s and a More Diverse Practice
The Scapegoat and the Killer Cops
A Return to the Limelight
Kunstler in His Final Years
About the Author

Representing the Attica Prisoners
Private Life and Practice in the 1970s

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About the author (1999)

Author of several books and recipient of the J.S. Holliday award, the James Willard Hurst Prize and the Caroline Bancroft Prize, David J. Langum is currently a Professor of Law at Samford University.

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