On March 7, 2017, our sister and comrade Lynne Stewart made the transition peacefully at her home in her beloved Brooklyn with her family at her side. As many in the NLG know, Lynne was ordered released from federal prison on December 31, 2013 after a legal and political campaign to win her compassionate release due to her on-going battle with breast cancer. Doctors from both behind the wall and in the street predicted she would succumb to the disease in 6-18 months. Through strength and determination, she lived for over 36 months and was able to spend time with family and, of course, continue the work for justice that characterized her entire life.
I first came to know of Lynne in the 1980’s when she defended one of several Black and white activists charged with violating RICO laws. Her skill won an acquittal for her client, Bilal Sunni Ali. In 1985, we both were part of a defense team for a group of white activists who became known as the “Ohio 7”. Working with Lynne and the other members of the team, including Bill Kunstler and Liz Fink, both also gone, was for me an education that no amount of law school or CLE’s could come close to duplicating.
What many do not know was that Lynne was a “full service” lawyer. If you were her client, she not only fought brilliantly in court, she felt it was her responsibility to take care of her client’s needs: clothes, making sure the clients had commissary money, facilitating visits with family. On more than one occasion she hired former clients or members of their family to work in her office when they lacked income. On other times she took clients and/or the children of clients into her home when they had no place to go. Lynne had a big heart.
Since her release and especially in the last few months of her life, Lynne and her husband and partner Ralph Poynter, increasingly urged those of us in the activist-lawyer community to dedicate ourselves to fighting racism and injustice, particularly to work for the freedom of political prisoners in US jails. Our finest tribute to Lynne would be to make that a reality.
Bob Boyle, 3-8-17
Robert J. Boyle has been a solo practitioner for most of his career specializing in criminal defense, civil rights and habeas corpus cases. Much of his political/legal work has been devoted to working for the release of political prisoners in United States jails, particularly those who were targeted many years ago by the FBI’s counterintelligence program known as COINTELPRO. In 1990 he and other NLG lawyers won the release of former Black Panther Party (BPP) leader Dhoruba Bin Wahad who was imprisoned for 19 years and in 2014 he won freedom for BPP leader Marshall Eddie Conway who had been incarcerated for 44 years.
Bob was also one of the attorneys who won freedom for attorney Lynne Stewart. He is currently representing Mumia Abu Jamal in his effort to obtain necessary medical care and continues to represent still-incarcerated BPP members.
Bob has been an NLG member since 1977 and has often served on the NLG-NYC’s Executive Committee.