ALAA Roots — An Unofficial Site

March 30, 2005

2005.03.30: In Memoriam: Johnnie Cochran

Filed under: Civil Rights,Criminal Justice,Political Prisoners,Racism — nyclaw01 @ 11:37 am

From: Michael Letwin
Sent: Wednesday, March 30, 2005 11:37 AM
To: 1199 Members; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: In Memoriam: Johnnie Cochran

latimes.com

http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-cochran30mar30,0,6388220.story?coll=la-home-headlines

JOHNNIE L. COCHRAN JR. |1937-2005

Flashy, Deft Lawyer Known Worldwide

Famous for heading Simpson ‘Dream Team,’ he was proudest of freeing Geronimo Pratt.

By Carla Hall

Times Staff Writer

March 30, 2005

Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., the masterful attorney who gained prominence as an early advocate for victims of police abuse then achieved worldwide fame for successfully defending football star O.J. Simpson against murder charges, died Tuesday. He was 67.

Cochran died of an inoperable brain tumor at his home in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles, said his brother-in-law Bill Baker. The tumor was diagnosed in December 2003, Baker said.

Initially, Cochran, his family and colleagues were secretive about his illness to protect the attorney’s privacy as well as the network of Cochran law offices, which largely draw their cachet from his presence. But Cochran confirmed in a September 2004 interview with The Times that neurosurgeon Keith Black at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles was treating him.

Simpson praised Cochran on Tuesday from his home in Florida.

“I’ve got to say, I don’t think I’d be home today without Johnnie,” the Hall of Famer told Associated Press. “Johnnie is what’s good about the law. He loved the system. I always tell people, if your kids or your loved ones got in trouble, you would want Johnnie. Even his adversaries respected him.”

Long before his defense of Simpson, Cochran challenged what many viewed as the Los Angeles Police Department’s misconduct toward people under arrest, at a time when the court system still ignored that behavior and victims took it for granted.

From the 1960s on, when he represented the widow of Leonard Deadwyler, a black motorist killed during a police stop in Los Angeles, Cochran took brutality cases to court. He won historic financial settlements and helped bring about lasting changes in police procedure.

His clients weren’t always black: He unsuccessfully represented Reginald O. Denny, the white trucker beaten by a mob during the 1992 riots after the not-guilty verdicts in the Rodney G. King beating were announced.

Instead of arguing, as he often did, that police had been brutal on the job, Cochran contended that the trucker’s civil rights had been violated when police failed to do their jobs at all upon being ordered to withdraw from the intersection of Florence Avenue and Normandie Street, a flash point of the riots where Denny was pulled from his big rig and attacked.

By the time Simpson was accused of murder in 1994, Cochran was “larger than life” in the city’s black community, said Kerman Maddox, a political consultant and longtime L.A. resident. After the Simpson case, that profile would expand, earning him new admirers, as well as new detractors who considered him a racially polarizing force.

His successful defense of Simpson against charges of murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Lyle Goldman, a waiter and casual friend of hers, vaulted him to the rank of celebrity, beseeched by autograph-seekers and parodied on “Saturday Night Live” and “Seinfeld.” His name was invoked by movie characters, one of whom boasted in the 1997 film “Jackie Brown” that his lawyer was so good, “he’s my own personal Johnnie Cochran.”

Ever aware of his public image, the attorney delighted in the attention and even played along, showing up in the occasional movie or TV show in a cameo role as himself.

Resplendently tailored and silky-voiced, clever and genteel, Cochran came to epitomize the formidable litigator, sought after by the famous and wealthy, the obscure and struggling, all believing that they were victims of the system in one way or another.

He was able to connect with any jury, and in his most famous case, the Simpson trial, he delivered an eloquent, even lilting closing argument.

He famously cast doubt on the prosecution’s theory of the case, saying: “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” The line – actually conceived by co-consul Gerald F. Uelmen during a strategy session – referred to the defense’s overall assessment of the evidence.

But it most evoked the moment in the trial when Simpson appeared to struggle to put on what were presumed to be the murderer’s bloody gloves – one of which was found at the crime scene, the other outside Simpson’s house.

“He could walk into court and charm the pants off a jury,” said Leslie Abramson, a leading defense attorney now retired. “But it wasn’t snake oil. He could figure out the essence of the case – of how ordinary people would view the law, the facts – and the equity, the sense of justice. He always had it figured out. And he had it figured out in Simpson. And the prosecutors never did.”

Duke University law professor Erwin Chemerinsky agreed. “I think you could have given that case to a lot of talented lawyers and O.J. would have been convicted,” he told The Times in late 2004.

Cochran inspired law students and attained a level of stardom rare for a lawyer and even rarer for a black lawyer. One of his most important legacies was the transforming effect of an African American man achieving that degree of success.

“Clients of all races are now no longer hesitant to retain black lawyers to represent them in significant cases,” said Winston Kevin McKesson, a black criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles. “That was not the case 25 or 30 years ago. We couldn’t even get African Americans in our community to trust us. He’s a historic figure.”

However, the Simpson criminal trial defined Cochran’s career for better and for worse. While it made him a household name and offered him access to virtually every high-profile criminal case, it also changed his life “drastically and forever,” he wrote in “A Lawyer’s Life.” “It obscured everything I had done previously.”

More galling and perplexing to him was the criticism that rained down after the Simpson verdicts. Though many legal experts marveled at Cochran’s skill, a parade of critics – TV pundits and newspaper columnists, California’s then-governor, Republican Pete Wilson, and even the attorney’s own co-counsel Robert Shapiro – denounced a legal strategy that put the competence and character of the LAPD on trial.

“Not only did we play the race card, we dealt it from the bottom of the deck,” Shapiro said in a national TV interview after a jury of nine African Americans, two whites and one Latino, all but two of them women, acquitted Simpson.

During the trial, Cochran and the rest of the defense team excoriated criminalists for sloppy work that compromised blood evidence and claimed that the police prejudged Simpson. Cochran and his “Dream Team,” as the defense attorneys were known, revealed that Det. Mark Fuhrman, who collected key evidence in the case, had a history of making racist remarks.

Everything about the Simpson case came to personify the excess of Los Angeles. A combustible combination of murder, sex and race, the extravagantly lengthy trial was carried live on television, making it probably the first high-profile reality TV show.

When it was finally over and the jury had acquitted Simpson, many in the public had not. A Times poll indicated that half the American public disagreed with the verdict. And the majority believed that the defense had used the race issue inappropriately to help free a defendant whose controversial saga began when he fled police in a nationally televised slow freeway chase.

Chemerinsky said Cochran did nothing more than discharge his duty as a zealous advocate in defending Simpson.

“I think Johnnie Cochran did a superb job,” Chemerinsky said. “He ultimately put the LAPD and the racism of the LAPD on trial, and that worked with that jury.”

Cochran spent two post-trial memoirs trying to dispel the criticism.

“The charge that I could convince black jurors to vote to acquit a man they believed to be guilty of two murders because he is black is an insult to all African Americans,” he wrote in “A Lawyer’s Life.”

It wasn’t that Cochran believed the police had conspired to frame Simpson. It was more that their racism had led to a “rush to judgment” and a willingness to “adjust the physical evidence slightly,” he wrote.

“He got an awful rap in the white community after the Simpson trial,” said Stuart Hanlon, a white attorney who was a longtime criminal defense collaborator with Cochran.

“All he did was do a great job as a lawyer – which is what we’re supposed to do – and beat some inept prosecutor. For him to get vilified for it just shows the racism in our community. I really think if O.J.’s lawyer had been white, that wouldn’t have happened…. If I had done that trial and won, no one would hate me.”

Ironically, up to that time, Cochran had spent most of his life not as a racially polarizing force but as the integrator, the black man gliding easily through white conference rooms, dinner parties and neighborhoods.

In the September 2004 phone interview with The Times, Cochran said he still would have taken the case had he known it would change his life. “I thought it was the right thing to do,” he said.

Cochran continued to support Simpson’s version of his activities the night his former wife and Goldman were found knifed to death outside her Brentwood townhouse.

“I still believe he’s innocent of those charges,” Cochran said in the September interview. “Even after all this time.”

Although the Simpson case might have been Cochran’s bravura moment on the public stage, he did not consider it his most important case. It was the long and twisted legal saga of Elmer “Geronimo” Pratt that for Cochran marked, at different points, the nadir and the pinnacle of his career.

Authorities contended that Pratt, a former Black Panther leader and Vietnam War veteran, robbed and shot a young white couple on a public tennis court in Santa Monica in December 1968. The woman died, but her husband survived and identified Pratt in a lineup two years after the shootings.

Cochran said his biggest disappointment was watching his client, Pratt, convicted of murder in 1972. And his greatest triumph came when a judge in Orange County reversed that conviction 25 years later.

Pratt, who now calls himself Geronimo ji Jaga, told The Times on Tuesday that Cochran was “truly a soldier fully dedicated to making sure that the rights of the oppressed be defended.”

The course of Cochran’s four-decade career zigzagged across the legal landscape, starting in the Los Angeles city attorney’s office, where he eagerly prosecuted drunk-driving cases, and ending in a private practice that earned him wealth and fame.

His law firm sprouted 14 offices outside California, devoted to personal-injury law and other civil litigation. But Cochran remained rooted not just to Los Angeles but to Wilshire Boulevard, maintaining his legal headquarters there even as the street’s glamour faded. For rising black professionals of his generation, a Wilshire address was the ultimate aspiration.

The eldest child of four, Cochran was born in a charity hospital in Shreveport, La. He was, he wrote, the great-grandson of slaves and the grandson of a sharecropper. His ambitious father, Johnnie L. Cochran Sr., moved the family halfway across the country to California and began an upward climb from working as a pipe fitter in San Francisco Bay Area shipyards to selling insurance for Golden State Mutual, the state’s leading black-owned insurance company.

The family settled in Los Angeles in 1949. There, Cochran’s father ran an insurance district office, bought a house in a well-tended neighborhood on West 28th Street and took his family to Second Baptist Church.

Like other members of the mid-century’s burgeoning black middle class in America, the senior Cochran and his wife, Hattie, expected much of themselves and more of their children. In “A Lawyer’s Life” the attorney wrote that his father stressed education and working hard “to reach our fullest potential. And he seemed to think our fullest potential was always a little fuller than we did.”

Cochran grew up wanting to be a lawyer, he surmises, because he loved to debate, a skill he honed at the dinner table and at Los Angeles High School. Dazzled by the natty attire of many classmates and their late-model convertibles, Cochran began developing a taste for stylish clothing and a love of fine cars.

After graduating from UCLA, he earned a degree from Loyola Law School in 1962. The summer after his first year at Loyola, he married Barbara Berry.

The couple eventually had two girls – Melodie and Tiffany – but the marriage began to crumble. Before they divorced, he had a relationship with Patricia Sikora, who bore him his only son, Jonathan, now a California Highway Patrol officer – something Cochran loved reminding critics who said he hated all peace officers.

As a college-age man, Cochran wrestled with his feelings about a white world that saw him as black before anything else, a concept of duality that he said writer and black liberationist W.E.B. Dubois best described as “two-ness.”

“The concept of ‘two-ness’ is one that has eternally intrigued me,” the attorney wrote in “Journey to Justice,” his first memoir. ” … We were never viewed as just teachers, doctors, lawyers, scientists and writers. We were perceived as black teachers, black doctors, black lawyers, black scientists and black writers.”

But that distinction was inescapable as he made his way in Los Angeles. In the fall of 1961, during his last year in law school, he became the first black law clerk in the office of the city attorney. In early 1963, he became a deputy city attorney.

He enjoyed trial work, but he grew uncomfortable prosecuting people – usually black men – who had allegedly resisted arrest. And he grew wary of the police, since many of those people showed signs of severe beatings.

“By the mid-1960s, the problem of unchecked police misconduct was the defining issue among black Angelenos of every social class,” he wrote in “Journey to Justice.”

He left the city attorney’s office in 1965 for private practice.

It was a case of alleged police misconduct in May 1966 that first thrust Cochran into the spotlight. Deadwyler, speeding his pregnant wife to the hospital, was pulled over by police, then shot to death. The officer who stopped him said later that he had reached into the car to grab the ignition key and that the car had lurched forward, causing the gun to discharge accidentally.

The shooting outraged a black community still emotionally smoldering from the Watts riots less than a year earlier. Cochran represented Deadwyler’s widow, Barbara, at a coroner’s inquest. As TV cameras rolled, viewers saw the deputy district attorney consulting with Cochran and often prefacing questions to witnesses with “Mr. Cochran wants to know…. ”

A majority of jurors found the shooting of Deadwyler accidental, but Cochran’s presence offered an indelible image of a black attorney as an important player.

“If you talk to African American professionals between 40 and 50, it was a powerful moment when they were young,” said Maddox, who was one of those youngsters.

In the two decades after the inquest, Cochran took on other cases that challenged Los Angeles juries and police policies.

But he was devastated when Pratt was convicted in July 1972 of murder. Although the husband of Caroline Olsen, the murdered woman, had identified Pratt as the assailant and although a former Black Panther Party rival, Julius Butler, had testified against Pratt, Cochran had been confident that the system would exonerate his client.

Only years later would he learn that Butler had been an informant for the government, including the district attorney’s office. Butler had denied that on the stand. If Cochran had known at the time, it would have been a different case.

“I had learned that prosecutors and law enforcement officials, convinced of their own righteousness, would do anything to make the system yield the ‘right result,’ ” he wrote.

Years later, Cochran would suggest that the LAPD did just that to make its case against Simpson – and others would accuse Cochran of using similar methods to defend his client.

The attorney continued to represent the families of people he believed to be victims of police abuse and was able to extract from the city of Los Angeles the first cash settlement – $25,000 – in a wrongful-death suit stemming from a police shooting.

In 1978, Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. John K. Van de Kamp chose Cochran to be assistant district attorney, the No. 3 position in the office, and suggested that he change the system from the inside. Cochran left his $300,000-a-year practice for the $49,000 salaried job, becoming the first African American to hold it.

But change came slowly. He lost a debate with his bosses over filing manslaughter charges against police officers who killed Eulia Love, a black woman they said had threatened them with a knife. The police had been called to her home after Love, overdue on her gas bill, allegedly used a shovel to shoo away gas company employees.

Later, however, Cochran and Gil Garcetti, then a deputy district attorney, changed the way prosecutors investigated police shootings. They initiated the policy of having a prosecutor and a district attorney’s investigator go immediately to the scene of every police shooting, a move designed to make the investigation impartial. No longer would the government rely entirely on police investigations of their own shootings.

Cochran left the district attorney’s office in 1981 and soon took on another case that would become a benchmark for the Los Angeles area.

After a traffic stop, police in Signal Hill booked Cal State Long Beach football player Ron Settles on suspicion of resisting arrest, possession of cocaine and assault on a police officer.

However, the validity of the charges would never be tested in court – a few hours later, just before his bail was posted, Settles was found dead in his cell. Police said he had apparently hanged himself.

Cochran and attorney Mike Mitchell, representing Settles’ parents at the coroner’s inquest, contended that the athlete died as a result of a police chokehold. Although the jury never specified how he was killed, it did issue a majority verdict that Settles had not killed himself but “died at the hands of another.” Cochran also helped the Settles family win a $760,000 judgment.

Later, in Los Angeles, Cochran was part of a group that successfully argued before the Police Commission that the bar-arm chokehold should be banned.

In the 1980s, he worked on burnishing his reputation as a premier attorney and player in Los Angeles. Mayor Tom Bradley, his mentor and Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity brother, appointed him to the Airport Commission, which oversaw expansion of Los Angeles International Airport and the awarding of contracts to run it.

And in court, Cochran was winning millions of dollars in awards for people injured or killed by the police. Most notably, he and law partner Eric Ferrer secured a $9.2-million judgment for Patty Diaz, a 13-year-old Latina sexually assaulted in her home by an LAPD officer. At the time it was the largest award resulting from LAPD misconduct ever granted by a trial jury, although the plaintiff later agreed to the reduced sum of $4.5 million.

In the middle of his rise as an attorney, Cochran’s personal life took a turn. As airport commissioner, he was attending a 1981 conference when he met Dale Mason, an executive for an Atlanta-based concessionaire. He and Mason, 13 years his junior, were married at the Bel-Air Hotel in 1985.

Dale Mason Cochran survives him, as do his son, Jonathan; daughters, Tiffany Cochran Edwards and Melodie Cochran; sisters, Pearl Baker and Martha Jean Sherrard; and father, Johnnie L. Cochran Sr.

The attorney also cultivated a clientele of celebrities in trouble. In 1993, he represented pop superstar Michael Jackson during his first battle against accusations of sexual molestation. A year later, Simpson called Cochran from jail begging him to join his defense team.

After victory in that trial, there was hardly a prominent civil rights or police abuse case that Cochran was not connected to in some way. But his impact was diluted by the sheer volume of what he undertook. He jetted between coasts, tried his hand at being co-host of a syndicated television legal show and dipped in and out of numerous cases.

“At any given time, I am actively involved in about 50 different cases,” he wrote in “A Lawyer’s Life.” That didn’t always sit well with clients. The mother of Amadou Diallo, the unarmed immigrant whose fatal 1999 shooting by New York police in the Bronx stirred national outrage, retained Cochran to represent her but fired him when she felt he didn’t have enough time for her.

“Maybe I did a few too many cases,” he mused in the September 2004 phone interview. “I handled a lot, and they were real tough cases.”

Cochran gave up the stressful and time-consuming practice of criminal law after successfully defending rap music mogul Sean Combs on weapons charges in New York in 2000. Last Tuesday, Cochran was at the center of a case heard by the U.S. Supreme Court after a former client picketed his law offices with signs accusing him of being a crook and a liar. Cochran sued for defamation.

A California court had found for Cochran and barred the defendant, Ulysses Tory, from orally making any statements about Cochran, a judgment that Tory argued violated his 1st Amendment rights. Chemerinsky, one of Tory’s attorneys, argued the case before the high court.

The one case Cochran stayed involved with more than two decades was Pratt’s.

“Some people would say that Cochran abandoned the case. I know better,” said Hanlon, who spent 23 years on the matter. “He was always there when I needed to talk to him.”

Not only did Cochran lend his expertise when they finally got a hearing on whether Pratt’s conviction should be overturned, but he also lent his credit card to the effort. “We were broke,” Hanlon said.

Because the court hearing was transferred from L.A. to the Orange County courtroom of a conservative judge, Cochran’s presence was key.

“I was a known radical,” Hanlon said. “He brought a credibility to the courtroom that I couldn’t bring.

Pratt’s murder conviction was overturned in May 1997, and he was freed after 27 years behind bars. The Los Angeles County district attorney declined to retry him. Cochran helped Pratt secure the $4.5-million settlement of a false-imprisonment suit.

“There are so many cases I believe in,” said Cochran in the 2004 phone interview. “Probably the biggest was Pratt…. Just getting him free – I remember that day down in Orange County; that was probably the happiest day for me in my whole career.”

Services are pending.

*

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Some notable cases

Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. was already well known in Southern California when he successfully defended O.J. Simpson in the renowned 1994 murder case. Here are some other notable cases handled by Cochran:

1972: Unsuccessfully represents Elmer “Geronimo” Pratt in a murder case. The former Black Panther Party leader and Vietnam veteran’s case is reversed in 1997. Cochran later helps Pratt settle a false-imprisonment suit for $4.5 million.

1981: Represents family of Cal State Long Beach football star Ron Settles, maintaining that he died as a result of a chokehold while in Signal Hill police custody. The coroner’s inquest finds that Settles died at the hand of another.

1992: His firm wins a $9.2-million judgment in the sexual assault of 13-year-old Patty Diaz by an LAPD officer. It was then the largest jury award for LAPD misconduct. It was later reduced to $4.5 million.

1993: Helps pop star Michael Jackson settle the initial molestation allegation.

1993: Represents Reginald O. Denny in an unsuccessful suit against the LAPD for failure to protect the white truck driver who was beaten at the start of the 1992 riots.

2001: Represents Abner Louima, a Haitian immigrant brutally assaulted by New York City police. Louima wins an $8.75-million settlement from the city.

2001: Wins acquittal of rap star Sean Combs on weapons and bribery charges.

2003: Wins a record-setting $700-million environmental pollution settlement against Monsanto, Pharmacia and Solutia for exposing about 18,000 Anniston, Ala., residents to PCBs, which are toxic.

2005.03.03: Fwd: Re: contract copy

Filed under: Collective Bargaining,Union Democracy and Structure — nyclaw01 @ 10:50 am

From: Susan Morris
Sent: Thursday, March 03, 2005 10:50 AM
To: ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Fwd: Re: contract copy

The attached is what Brooklyn Members were provided withas “the contract” when one of our members (repeatedly) requested a copy.  It is a copy of the 2000-2002 contract, and the “MEMORANDUM OF AGREEMENT” dated 10/01/02 to 09/30/05.

THIS IS NOT A CONTRACT!!

We have ratified a new contract and ratified give backs TWICE since the 2000-2002 contract was issued.  Has there NEVER been an ACTUAL CONTRACT PROPERLY recorded?  How can the Union Leadership even pretend that sending out a contract that isn’t even in effect any more is a copy of “the contract”?

This is outragreous and unnacceptable.

WHERE IS THE CONTRACT?

There is no more important work for our Union Leadership than to make sure our contract is enforced – how can we do that with this piecemeal documentation being used as a poor excuse for a contract??

Jim & George, please make this an agenda item at the next Delegate’s Council meeting and the next Executive Board Meeting.

March 29, 2005

2005.03.29: In Memoriam: Bruce McM. Wright

Filed under: Criminal Justice,Racism — nyclaw01 @ 1:37 pm
Tags:

From: Michael Letwin
Sent: Tuesday, March 29, 2005 3:45 PM
To: 1199 Members; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: In Memoriam: Bruce McM. Wright

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/26/obituaries/26wright.html?

The New York Times
March 26, 2005
Bruce McM. Wright, Erudite Judge Whose Bail Rulings Caused an Uproar, Dies at 86 By ROBERT D. McFADDEN

Bruce McM. Wright, a retired black judge in Manhattan who denounced what he called racism in the criminal justice system and created a furor in the 1970’s by setting low bail for many poor and minority suspects, died in his sleep on Thursday at his home in Old Saybrook, Conn. He was 86.

His death was announced by his wife, Elizabeth Davidson-Wright. Justice Wright, who retired at the end of 1994 from State Supreme Court, suffered a heart attack in March 2000.

Justice Wright spent 25 years on the bench in both criminal and civil cases, gaining a reputation as a scholarly and provocative jurist who sprinkled his opinions with literary quotations.

But it was in Criminal Court early in his judicial career that he found himself at the center of a storm over his out-of-court remarks and bail policies, which had the effect of releasing many suspects, some of them charged with vicious attacks on police officers.

“Turn ‘Em Loose Bruce” was the sobriquet supplied by the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, which called him “the best friend criminals ever had.” At various times, Mayor John V. Lindsay, who appointed him to the bench in 1970, as well as Mayors Abraham D. Beame and Edward I. Koch and many other politicians, joined the chorus of denunciations.

But civil libertarians, Legal Aid lawyers and others defended Judge Wright’s use of bail as appropriate in the context of its statutory and traditional purpose: to assure the presence at trial of a defendant, who is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

In setting bail, judges typically weigh a defendant’s character, employment, finances and community roots. Also considered are any criminal record, possible danger to the community, the seriousness of the charges and the probable sentence that a conviction would carry, which, if severe enough, might raise the possibility of flight to avoid prosecution.

While no records were kept on the bail practices of judges, Judge Wright’s were not very different from those of his colleagues, lawyers familiar with the courts at the time said, but his decisions were monitored more closely by the police and reporters.

Judge Wright insisted that bail should not be used punitively, to detain people for the sake of crime prevention or to coerce guilty pleas. He said his aim was to uphold the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which says “excessive bail shall not be required.” For some poor people, he contended, $50 could be excessive.

Judge Wright also drew angry responses with out-of-court speeches asserting that white judges often did not treat black defendants fairly and that the acquittal of white officers by white juries had given the police “a license to hunt down blacks and kill them with impunity.”

While opponents called those remarks intemperate for a judge, many black and Hispanic New Yorkers regarded him as a compassionate counterweight to an overwhelmingly white justice system. In the mid-1970’s, only 2 to 3 percent of America’s judges were black. The City Bar Association, meanwhile, called his performance on the bench “decidedly better than average.”

Judge Wright’s perceptions were shaped by his own experiences with racism. He had been a distinguished student, but was turned away from Princeton; he had been a decorated soldier in World War II, but had to serve in segregated units; he had worked for a major New York law firm, but said he was told that he could not hope to become a partner.

A tall, trim man with angular features and an athlete’s confident bearing, he was an amateur painter, an avid reader and the author of three published volumes of poetry. He also wrote “Black Robes, White Justice” (Lyle Stuart, 1987), about race and the judiciary.

Bruce McMarion Wright was born on Dec. 19, 1918, in Princeton, N.J. His father was a baker. He was an excellent student and applied to Princeton, but was dissuaded by an admissions official, who wrote him saying that the school did not discriminate but had “no colored students” and advised him that “a member of your race might feel very much alone.”

Sixty-five years later, the Princeton graduating class of 2001 made Judge Wright an honorary member.

In 1936, the young man enrolled at Virginia State, a black college, but was expelled for a prank: changing a headline in a student newspaper from “Religion Week” to “Religion Weak.” He attended Lincoln University, a predominantly black school in Pennsylvania, and after graduation in 1942 entered the Army.

He served in a segregated medical unit and was in the third wave of the Normandy invasion in 1944. He won two Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars.

In 1946, he enrolled at New York Law School, taking classes at night while working at odd jobs. In his last year, he was a clerk with the prominent firm of Proskauer Rose Goetz & Mendelsohn. After passing the bar exam in 1950, he asked about his prospects. As he recalled it years later, he was told that there could be no future for him there. A senior partner later voiced doubt that any member would make such a statement.

Over the next 17 years, Judge Wright practiced law in New York with a number of black firms. In 1967, he was named counsel to the city’s Human Resources Administration, and three years later was named to the Criminal Court bench by Mayor Lindsay.

The judge’s bail policies soon became controversial. There was an uproar in 1972, when he twice released on $500 bail a man accused of killing a police officer. Another judge raised the bail to $25,000. The suspect was later convicted of assault and robbery but acquitted of murder. In 1974, Judge Wright released a man accused of kidnapping, rape and the attempted murder of a police officer.

After repeated protests by the police union, Judge Wright was transferred to Civil Court in 1974 by the city’s administrative judge, who denied that the move had anything to do with his bail policies. Judge Wright sued in federal court, seeking reinstatement to Criminal Court. In 1978, as hearings were about to begin, he was transferred back to Criminal Court.

The bail controversy resumed, and the protests rose to a peak in April 1979, when Judge Wright released without bail a black man charged with slashing the throat of a white decoy officer, Robert Bilodeau.

Judge Wright noted that the suspect, Jerome Singleton, had no criminal record and had a family and other community ties. He also said prosecutors had offered no compelling reason to ban Mr. Singleton’s release. In two trials, Mr. Singleton was found not guilty of attempted murder but was convicted of second-degree assault.

With little hope that Mayor Koch, a harsh critic, would reappoint him when his 10-year term expired, Judge Wright ran successfully for Civil Court judge in 1979, and was elected a justice of the State Supreme Court in 1982. He served in the court’s civil branch for 12 relatively quiet years, until his retirement on Dec. 31, 1994.

But his opinions, especially about race, remained provocative.

“I have never changed my mind about the Eighth Amendment,” he said a few days before retiring. “To say that I would’ve done things differently means to me I would have been a good boy, kept my mouth shut and availed myself of the benefits of the system. I don’t think I can do that. I don’t think I could ever do that.”

Besides his wife, Judge Wright’s survivors include a brother, Robert, of Willingboro, N.J.; five sons from previous marriages: Geoffrey, a civil court judge in Manhattan, Keith L., a Democratic state assemblyman from Harlem, Alexis, of Chicago, Bruce, of Washington, and Patrick, of Connecticut; a daughter, Tiffany, of Brooklyn; and two grandsons.

March 17, 2005

2005.03.17: Antiwar Bulletin

Filed under: Antiwar,Civil Liberties,Uncategorized — nyclaw01 @ 1:38 pm
Tags:

From: Michael Letwin
Sent: Thursday, March 17, 2005 2:28 PM
To: 1199 Members; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Antiwar Bulletin

Contents

1.   Saturday, 3/19:  Details of Antiwar Labor Contingent
2.   Monday, 3/21:  Activists of Color on Trial in Brooklyn
3.   CCNY Counter-Recruiter Defense Campaign

———————————

Saturday, 3/19:  Details of Antiwar Labor Contingent

Sat., March 19, 2005 – Labor Says:

U.S. OUT OF IRAQ!
BRING THE TROOPS HOME NOW!
End War & Occupation in Palestine, Afghanistan, Around the World!
Fund Jobs, Health Care & Schools – Not War!
Fight Racism – Defend Immigrant, Civil & Labor Rights!

NYC: LABOR CONTINGENT
Assemble 10 a.m. at Marcus Garvey Park, Madison Ave. & 122 St.
(directly across from North General Hospital – 2/3/4/5/6 & Metro-North trains to 125 St.). March to Central Park’s East Meadow (97 St. & 5 Ave. – 6 train to 96 St.) for 12 Noon rally.
Details: nyclaw@comcast.net, 917-282-0139, <http://www.troopsoutnow.org/&gt;.

FAYETTEVILLE, NC: ANTIWAR MILITARY FAMILIES & VETS Home of Fort Bragg, 82nd Airborne, Special Forces.
Bus tickets: 212-868-5545.
Additional info: <www.NCpeacejustice.org>

Labor endorsers of 3/19 NYC Demo (List in Formation):

AFSCME L. 205, DC 1707
AFSCME L. 375, DC 37
AFSCME L. 1930, DC 37 (NY Public Library Guild) AFSCME L. 2627, DC 37 AFM L. 1000 Assn. of Mexican American Workers Black Telephone Workers for Justice Coalition of Black Trade Unionists-NY Guyanese-American Workers United Million Worker March National Writers Union/UAW Local 1981 National Writers Union, UAW L. 1981-NJ Chap.
NJ Labor Against the War
NYC Labor Against the War (NYCLAW)
Postal Workers Against the War
Transit Workers Against the War
UFTers to Stop the War
1199ers for Peace and Justice
NY Taxi Workers Alliance
Troy Area Labor Council
Brenda Stokely, Pres., AFSCME DC 1707*
Michael Letwin, Former Pres., UAW L. 2325* Larry Adams, Former Pres., NPMHU L. 300* Susan E. Davis, Pres, Ext. Org., UAW L. 1981* (*Org. listed for ID only)

Issued by:
NYC Labor Against the War (NYCLAW)
nyclaw@comcast.net, 917-282-0139

Monday, 3/21:  Activists of Color on Trial in Brooklyn

From: Rafael Mutis <stopdawar@yahoo.com>
Subject: Brooklyn 7 trial starts Mon, 3/21/05

In November of 2003, police arrived at a house party of community folks, mostly people of color, who are organizers and educators against the prison-industrial complex. Without provocation, police beat and seriously injured several of us, then arrested eight people of color. The arrestees have had criminal charges heaped on them. Seven are going to trial next week.

YOUR PRESENCE HELPS US AND HELPS THE TRIAL. The first time we went to court back in December 2003, it was packed with 50 of our people. Court officers weren’t grillin or barkin on folks. Our collective energy transformed the courtroom. We need this again at the Brooklyn Criminal Criminal Court (120 Schermerhorn Street)[Part BTP-1].
Having you in court shows the jury, judge and DA that our community is behind us. It gives strength to our claims of injustice.

Our trial will last about two weeks. We will have a morning (9:30-12:30) and afternoon shift (2-5PM) for our court supporters. We need you to sign up for as many shifts as possible between March 21st and April 1st. The most vital days are March 22nd, 23rd, and 24th and during closing arguments (we will keep you posted as the trial proceeds).

To sign up contact Kate Rubin at 917-647-5777 or katedrubin@yahoo.com . Indicate which dates and shifts, morning or afternoon you are available. Please forward to all you know.

PS. Upcoming dates to mark on your calendar. Three members of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement were arrested last month while conducting a copwatch IN Bed-Stuy. They are going to court on March 30th at Brooklyn Criminal Court 120 Schermerhorn Street. The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement will be holding a press conference on this day. Please go to court on March 30th. For more information call 718-254-8800.

CCNY Counter-Recruiter Defense Campaign

DEFEND FREE SPEECH AT CITY COLLEGE OF NEW YORK (CCNY)

The three CCNY students arrested and brutalized Wednesday, March 9, for peacefully protesting the presence of military recruiters at City College’s “career fair” were arraigned and released Thursday.
They were charged with misdemeanor counts of assaulting an officer, resisting arrest, and disturbing the peace, among other things.
Hospital records from Mt. Sinai confirm that Nick Bergreen and Justino Rodriguez suffered multiple contusions and postconcussion syndrome.
Their court date is set for April 5.

CITY COLLEGE HITS BACK WITH SUSPENSION AND ANOTHER ARREST

Friday, March 11, Hadas Thier, an undergraduate student at CCNY, was informed that she had been suspended from the University for “posing a continuing danger,” and was banned from even setting foot on campus, pending a hearing to take place sometime in the next seven days. Meanwhile, Carol Lang, a CCNY staff member, was arrested in connection with Wednesday’s protest and also charged with assault.

Gregory H. Williams, the president of the College, sent an email to the entire faculty and student body repeating allegations against the students as if they were facts. “The confrontation escalated and several of the demonstrators grabbed and hit the officer. At this point, the three students involved in the attack on the officer were arrested,” he wrote.

It is a disgrace that the administration has so clearly sided with campus security without any evidence or due process, rather than looking out for the rghts and safety of its students, faculty, and staff. Together, the actions of the security guards, the City of New York, and the CCNY administration have served to stifle dissent and create a climate of intimidation.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

1. Let them know what you think:
(and copy cityfreespeech@earthlink.net on your emails)

Gregory Williams, President
212-650-7285/7286, 212-650-7680 (fax)
c/o Chief of Staff Michael Rogovin
mrogovin@ccny.cuny.edu

Maureen Powers, VP for Student Affairs
212-650-5426, 212-650-7080 (fax)
c/o Assistant to the VP George Rhinehart grhinehart@ccny.cuny.edu

George Crinnion, Director of Public Safety 212-650-7992, 212-650-7991 (fax) gcrinnion@ccny.cuny.edu

Danny Vasquez, Security Specialist
212-650-7988, 212-650-7991 (fax)
dvasquez@ccny.cuny.edu

2. Sign on to the letter supporting free speech on campus

Please find the letter attached. To sign onto the letter, send an email to: cityfreespeech@earthlink.net

************************************************************

Dear President Williams,

We, the undersigned, are outraged that freedom of speech for faculty, staff, and students of the City College of New York (CCNY) was so blatantly attacked last week.

We were dismayed to learn that three students were attacked and arrested by campus security guards for exercising their constitutionally protected right to assemble and to protest.

We were further outraged to learn that you swiftly moved — without evidence, due process, or a discussion with the arrested students — to suspend one of the students and to arrest another protester after the fact. This guilty-until-proven-innocent approach sends a chilling message: security forces have free reign on campus.

We demand that you defend the CCNY students, drop all disciplinary proceedings against the students involved in the protest, and launch an investigation into the actions of campus security.

Signed,

Hadas Thier, CCNY Class of 2005
Justino Rodriguez, CCNY Class of 2007
Nicholas Bergreen, CCNY Class of 2007

March 10, 2005

Antiwar Bulletin: 100 Centre Press Conf. 4 p.m. Today

Filed under: Uncategorized — nyclaw01 @ 1:38 pm
Tags:

From: Michael Letwin
Sent: Thursday, March 10, 2005 10:33 AM
To: 1199 Members; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Antiwar Bulletin: 100 Centre Press Conf. 4 p.m. Today

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CITY COLLEGE STUDENT
COUNTER-RECRUITERS
CHARGED WITH FELONY ASSAULT

WHAT: Press Conference

WHO: City College Counter-Recruiters: Hadas Thier, Nicholas Bergreen, Justino Rodriguez (pending their
release) and their supporters: representatives from civil liberties organizations, national anti-war organizations, student anti-war organizations, veterans and military family members, and the legal community

WHERE: Thursday March 10th
4pm
100 Centre Street

CONTACTS

Activist: Meredith Kolodner (917) 881-3896
Lawyers: Sean Maher, Darlene Jorif (212) 876-5500

STORY: COUNTER-RECRUITERS CHARGED WITH FELONY ASSAULT

Three undergraduate students at the City College of New York (CCNY) were arrested Wednesday in the course of a peaceful protest against military recruiters.
Hadas Thier, Nick Bergreen, and Justino Rodriguez, along with approximately a dozen other protesters attended a job fair organized by the college, and stood up in front of a National Guard recruitment table chanting anti-war slogans. Private security and campus peace officers immediately surrounded the protesters, pushed them into an empty hallway outside of the job fair, closed the hall door and assaulted two protesters and arrested a third who was taking pictures. The two students who were assaulted are now being charged with felony assault, and the third with obstruction of a government administrator.

MILITARY RESPONDING TO COUNTER-RECRUITER’S SUCCESS

“Counter-recruitment” has become a national issue (USATODAY “Counter-recruiters shadowing the military”
3/7/5), and it’s working. Between these efforts, and general disagreement about the war, recruitment is down – according to a 3/6/5 Reuters report, “The regular Army is 6 percent behind its year-to-date recruiting target, the Reserve is 10 percent behind, and the Guard is 26 percent short.”

After similar counter-recruitment efforts have taken off from New York to Seattle, the military has clearly become concerned. At William Patterson University in New Jersey an activist was arrested for simply handing out counter-recruitment leaflets. Twice last semester, CCNY student protesters drove military recruiters off the campus with peaceful protests. This time campus security was ready. “We didn’t even get through one round of chanting,” according to Tiffany Paul, a junior at CCNY and a member of the Campus Anti-War Network, who was one of the protesters. “We were completely peaceful, it was the officers who were violent.”

UNNECESSARY BRUTALITY

When Mr. Rodriguez was being arrested, his head was slammed into the wall. He called out “look what they’re doing to me!” According to Ms. Paul, to silence him one of the guards pulled Mr. Rodriguez’s hood over his head and slammed his head into the wall again.

“He just stood on the guy,” remembers Mark Turner, a staff member at CCNY, recalling the manner in which Mr. Bergreen was subdued by a private security guard, Mr. Robertson. “His foot was on his back, after he had tackled him. Private security are not supposed to touch us.”

Ms. Thier was arrested simply for taking pictures.
Several witnesses recall that the guards were pulling on her hair. Juan Alduey remembers that the guards pushed Ms. Thier when she tried to give a statement to students who began filming the event. “I’m being arrested for exercising my right to free speech” Mr.
Alduey recalled.

2005.03.10: Antiwar Bulletin: 100 Centre Press Conf. 4 p.m. Today

From: Michael Letwin
Sent: Thursday, March 10, 2005 10:33 AM
To: 1199 Members; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Antiwar Bulletin: 100 Centre Press Conf. 4 p.m. Today

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CITY COLLEGE STUDENT

COUNTER-RECRUITERS

CHARGED WITH FELONY ASSAULT

WHAT: Press Conference

WHO: City College Counter-Recruiters: Hadas Thier, Nicholas Bergreen, Justino Rodriguez (pending their

release) and their supporters: representatives from civil liberties organizations, national anti-war organizations, student anti-war organizations, veterans and military family members, and the legal community

WHERE: Thursday March 10th

4pm

100 Centre Street

CONTACTS

Activist: Meredith Kolodner (917) 881-3896

Lawyers: Sean Maher, Darlene Jorif (212) 876-5500

STORY: COUNTER-RECRUITERS CHARGED WITH FELONY ASSAULT

Three undergraduate students at the City College of New York (CCNY) were arrested Wednesday in the course of a peaceful protest against military recruiters.

Hadas Thier, Nick Bergreen, and Justino Rodriguez, along with approximately a dozen other protesters attended a job fair organized by the college, and stood up in front of a National Guard recruitment table chanting anti-war slogans. Private security and campus peace officers immediately surrounded the protesters, pushed them into an empty hallway outside of the job fair, closed the hall door and assaulted two protesters and arrested a third who was taking pictures. The two students who were assaulted are now being charged with felony assault, and the third with obstruction of a government administrator.

MILITARY RESPONDING TO COUNTER-RECRUITER’S SUCCESS

“Counter-recruitment” has become a national issue (USATODAY “Counter-recruiters shadowing the military”

3/7/5), and it’s working. Between these efforts, and general disagreement about the war, recruitment is down – according to a 3/6/5 Reuters report, “The regular Army is 6 percent behind its year-to-date recruiting target, the Reserve is 10 percent behind, and the Guard is 26 percent short.”

After similar counter-recruitment efforts have taken off from New York to Seattle, the military has clearly become concerned. At William Patterson University in New Jersey an activist was arrested for simply handing out counter-recruitment leaflets. Twice last semester, CCNY student protesters drove military recruiters off the campus with peaceful protests. This time campus security was ready. “We didn’t even get through one round of chanting,” according to Tiffany Paul, a junior at CCNY and a member of the Campus Anti-War Network, who was one of the protesters. “We were completely peaceful, it was the officers who were violent.”

UNNECESSARY BRUTALITY

When Mr. Rodriguez was being arrested, his head was slammed into the wall. He called out “look what they’re doing to me!” According to Ms. Paul, to silence him one of the guards pulled Mr. Rodriguez’s hood over his head and slammed his head into the wall again.

“He just stood on the guy,” remembers Mark Turner, a staff member at CCNY, recalling the manner in which Mr. Bergreen was subdued by a private security guard, Mr. Robertson. “His foot was on his back, after he had tackled him. Private security are not supposed to touch us.”

Ms. Thier was arrested simply for taking pictures.

Several witnesses recall that the guards were pulling on her hair. Juan Alduey remembers that the guards pushed Ms. Thier when she tried to give a statement to students who began filming the event. “I’m being arrested for exercising my right to free speech” Mr.

Alduey recalled.

March 9, 2005

2005.03.09: Antiwar Bulletin: March 19 Protests in NYC & Fayetteville

Filed under: Antiwar,Uncategorized — nyclaw01 @ 1:39 pm
Tags:

From: Michael Letwin
Sent: Wednesday, March 09, 2005 10:43 AM
To: 1199 Members; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Antiwar Bulletin: March 19 Protests in NYC & Fayetteville

Sat., March 19, 2005 – Labor Says:

U.S. OUT OF IRAQ!
BRING THE TROOPS HOME NOW!
End War & Occupation in Palestine, Afghanistan, Around the World!
Fund Jobs, Health Care & Schools – Not War!
Fight Racism – Defend Immigrant, Civil & Labor Rights!

NYC: LABOR CONTINGENT
Assemble 10 a.m. at Marcus Garvey Park, Madison Ave. & 122 St. (directly across from North General Hospital – 4/5/6 trains to 125 St.).  March to Central Park’s East Meadow (97 St. & 5 Ave. – 6 train to 96 St.) for 12 Noon rally.  Details:  nyclaw@comcast.net, 917-282-0139, <http://www.troopsoutnow.org/&gt;.

FAYETTEVILLE, NC:  ANTIWAR  MILITARY FAMILIES & VETS Home of Fort Bragg, 82nd Airborne, Special Forces.
Bus tickets:  212-868-5545.
Additional info: <www.NCpeacejustice.org>

LABOR ENDORSERS OF 3/19 NYC DEMO (LIST IN FORMATION):

AFSCME DC 37
AFSCME L. 205, DC 37
AFSCME L. 375, DC 37
AFSCME L. 1930, DC 37 (NY Public Library Guild) AFSCME L. 2627, DC 37 AFM L. 1000 Assn. of Mexican American Workers Black Telephone Workers for Justice Coalition of Black Trade Unionists-NY Guyanese-American Workers United Million Worker March National Writers Union, UAW L. 1981-NJ Chap.
NJ Labor Against the War
NYC Labor Against the War (NYCLAW)
NYC Teachers Against the War
Postal Workers Against the War
Transit Workers Against the War
Brenda Stokely, Pres., AFSCME DC 1707*
Michael Letwin, Former Pres., UAW L. 2325* Larry Adams, Former Pres., NPMHU L. 300* Susan E. Davis, Pres, Ext. Org., UAW L. 1981* (*Org. listed for ID only)

Issued by:  NYC Labor Against the War (NYCLAW) nyclaw@comcast.net, 917-282-0139

2005.03.09: Antiwar Bulletin: March 19 Protests in NYC & Fayetteville

From: Michael Letwin
Sent: Wednesday, March 09, 2005 10:43 AM
To: 1199 Members; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Antiwar Bulletin: March 19 Protests in NYC & Fayetteville

Sat., March 19, 2005 – Labor Says:

U.S. OUT OF IRAQ!
BRING THE TROOPS HOME NOW!
End War & Occupation in Palestine, Afghanistan, Around the World!
Fund Jobs, Health Care & Schools – Not War!
Fight Racism – Defend Immigrant, Civil & Labor Rights!

NYC: LABOR CONTINGENT
Assemble 10 a.m. at Marcus Garvey Park, Madison Ave. & 122 St. (directly across from North General Hospital – 4/5/6 trains to 125 St.). March to Central Park’s East Meadow (97 St. & 5 Ave. – 6 train to 96 St.) for 12 Noon rally. Details: nyclaw@comcast.net, 917-282-0139, <http://www.troopsoutnow.org/&gt;.

FAYETTEVILLE, NC: ANTIWAR MILITARY FAMILIES & VETS Home of Fort Bragg, 82nd Airborne, Special Forces.
Bus tickets: 212-868-5545.
Additional info: <www.NCpeacejustice.org>

 

LABOR ENDORSERS OF 3/19 NYC DEMO (LIST IN FORMATION):

AFSCME DC 37
AFSCME L. 205, DC 37
AFSCME L. 375, DC 37
AFSCME L. 1930, DC 37 (NY Public Library Guild) AFSCME L. 2627, DC 37 AFM L. 1000 Assn. of Mexican American Workers Black Telephone Workers for Justice Coalition of Black Trade Unionists-NY Guyanese-American Workers United Million Worker March National Writers Union, UAW L. 1981-NJ Chap.
NJ Labor Against the War
NYC Labor Against the War (NYCLAW)
NYC Teachers Against the War
Postal Workers Against the War
Transit Workers Against the War
Brenda Stokely, Pres., AFSCME DC 1707*
Michael Letwin, Former Pres., UAW L. 2325* Larry Adams, Former Pres., NPMHU L. 300* Susan E. Davis, Pres, Ext. Org., UAW L. 1981* (*Org. listed for ID only)
Issued by: NYC Labor Against the War (NYCLAW) nyclaw@comcast.net, 917-282-0139

3.19.05 Labor Flyer

March 2, 2005

2005.03.02: Re: Thank You, Bob Zuss

From: Lisa R. Edwards
Sent: Wednesday, March 02, 2005 3:11 PM
To: Susan Morris; ALAA MEMBERS
Subject: Re: Thank You, Bob Zuss

Thank you Bob.  You were presented with a rare opportunity.  As a recipient of the the Marden Award you were afforded a public platform to address the Board face to face.  While many others would have remained silent and simply bask in the limelight, you chose to to seize the opportunity and speak out on behalf of our clients and your union brothers and sisters. Many props and respect to you.  In solidarity, Lisa.

P.S.  Congratulations on receiving the award.

Lisa Edwards

Staff Attorney

Legal Aid Society

Community Law Offices

>>> Susan  Morris 3/1/2005 3:35:22 PM >>>

Thanks are owed to Bob Zuss, who was presented with one of last night’s Marden Awards.

Bob did not waste his opportunity to speak out to “the board.”

In accepting his award, he said he had TWO things to say … after first giving thanks for the award, he then let the board know that they could not continue to present us with cutbacks and staff reductions.  He laid it out in no uncertain terms that this organization CANNOT continue representing the poor of New York City if the board members continue to deny us the resources we need to do a proper job.

Bob represents what this union has always been in the past – a FIGHTING UNION that DOES NOT keep giving away the store!!

The rest of us are indebted to Bob and we need to show our appreciation by NOT rolling over every time the board says, “Roll over, rover.”

It’s the least we can do.

Thank you Bob, for telling it like it is and setting the example for the rest of us.

Blog at WordPress.com.