NLG-NYC and CCR Call on New York Assembly to Oppose Anti-Boycott Bill

NLG-NYC and CCR Appeal to New York Assembly to Oppose Anti-Boycott Bill

Advocates Argue Bill Violates First Amendment

January 31, 2014, New York – The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the National Lawyers Guild- New York City Chapter (NLG-NYC) sent New York Assembly Members a letter urging them to oppose pending legislation that would deny state funding to colleges and universities that fund membership and activities in organizations supporting boycotts of a list of countries, including Israel.  According to the legislation’s sponsors, the bills S.6438 (passed in the state Senate on January 28) and A.8392 (on the agenda of the Assembly’s Higher Education Committee February 4th) were drafted in response to the American Studies Association’s recent resolution to boycott Israeli academic institutions.

“The New York legislature’s anti-boycott bills are unconstitutional, a threat to academic freedom, and a disgrace,” said Maria LaHood, Senior Staff Attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights.  “The bills’ sponsors have not even tried to veil their intent to stop concerned citizens from using a nonviolent and historical tool for social change, because it’s aimed at Israel’s policies.”

The CCR and NLG-NYC letter urges lawmakers to recognize that denying state aid based on such protected speech violates the First Amendment and threatens academic freedom.  It stresses that boycotts to bring about political, social and economic change are protected speech under the First Amendment, and warns that legislation to deny public funding in response to the assertion of unpopular views would likely face Constitutional challenges.  The letter also notes that legislation to punish boycotts of the South African apartheid regime “would have been an unacceptable outcome then, and it is an unacceptable outcome now.”

“Regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with a cause that a boycott is addressing, or whether a boycott is an appropriate way to address that cause, the First Amendment right to engage in a boycott aimed at bringing about political and social change must be upheld and protected,” said Elena Cohen, President of the NLG-NYC.

The American Studies Association endorsed a resolution in December, 2013 to boycott Israeli institutions in protest of the Israeli occupation and Israel’s discriminatory laws and policies towards Palestinian students and scholars in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and inside Israel.  The ASA resolution calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions is available here, and an explanation of the resolution is available here.

See the full letter to Assembly Members.

See CCR’s statement on the bill’s passage in the New York state senate.

For more information on the legality of academic boycott, please see Palestinian Solidarity Legal Support’s frequently asked questions.


NLG-NYC Announces Historic Settlement in RNC 2004 Civil Cases

On January 15, 20014, RNC 04 civil plaintiffs, their attorneys, and members of the legal support team, including NLG Legal Observers, held a press conference on the steps of City Hall to announce the settlement in the 2004 RNC civil cases.  The settlement is the largest in U.S. history arising from the mass arrests of protesters.  Read the full Statement by Attorneys for the Plaintiffs here.  Former Chapter President, Martin R. Stolar, pictured, spoke on behalf on the NLG-NYC. Read his remarks here. The press release by the NLG-NYC can be read here.


The NLG-NYC Celebrates the Return of our Freedom Fighter Lynne Stewart!

The New York City Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild celebrates the victory of our long battle to free fellow member and radical defense attorney Lynne Stewart.  This morning, the government filed papers requesting what the Guild has long been fighting for, the compassionate release of our sister and comrade Lynne Stewart.  Lynne, now 74, is dying of cancer, and has been given a prognosis of less than 18 months to live. Late today, Judge Koeltl granted the government’s request and Lynne’s release is imminent.

We commend the government for requesting her release and hope that it will make similar requests on behalf of the many federal prisoners that qualify for compassionate release under its own guidelines.

Lynne Stewart has been held at the Carswell Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas, since her 2005 outrageous conviction for “material support for terrorism”. That charge was based upon an interview Lynne had with a Reuters reporter that expressed the political views of her incarcerated client, Dr. Omar Abdel Rahman.

As members of the radical legal community, the Guild fought for our sister in struggle, pushing against the government’s attempt to silence Lynne and isolate her case from public discourse. While the government attempted to use her case to instill fear in others who defend the oppressed and advocate for dignity and human rights, Lynne stood her ground, just as she stood her ground defending those the rest of the world had long abandoned: Muslims, people of color, and those the government labeled “terrorists.”  Lynne did not shy away from placing her client’s cases in the larger political context under which they occurred, whether it be the so-called “war on terror” that has been used internationally to justify wars and indefinite detention, or domestically to justify larger police budgets and funding of the prison industrial complex.

While we applaud Lynne’s imminent release, we cannot forget others that still languish in our prisons, from Leonard Peltier and Oscar Lopez Rivera, to Mumia Abu Jamal and Jeremy Hammond. We call for their release and the release of all of our political prisoners.  For her courage and strength to defend and fight for others at the expense of her own liberty, we are forever indebted to our freedom fighter, Lynne Stewart, we welcome our sister home with open arms and celebrate this long fought victory.

Listen to Bob Boyle’s interview about today’s developments with Democracy Now! with producer Renée Feltz:

Read the Government’s Motion for Lynne Stewart’s Compassionate Release:



NLG Animal Rights Activism Committee: Stand with Marineland Animal Defense

The National Lawyers Guild’s Animal Rights Activism Committee expresses its solidarity with and grave concern for Marineland Animal Defense and the legal repression they are facing at the hands of Marineland Canada.  Marineland, a captive animal facility in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada, was recently the subject of investigative reporting by the Toronto Star, based on the testimony of fifteen ex-employees which included allegations of animal abuse and mistreatment. Though anti-SLAPP legislation is pending (legislation that curbs lawsuits aimed against protected political speech), Marineland has filed several lawsuits against activists and ex employees, using the courts to prevent protesters from saying certain words like “abuse” on their signs or using megaphones. Marineland has further used its lawyers to threaten legal action against any person demonstrating in violation of the Court order, despite the fact that the order facially only applies to one person, effectively threatening to punish one individual if any other person on their own chooses to violate the order. 

It is clear Marineland’s tactics are to silence public debate and criticism over their use, captivity and abuse of marine mammals through the use of repressive and intimidating lawsuits, injunctions aimed at completely silencing any criticism of the park and chilling any speech and debate around the subject in general.  This campaign to criminalize Marineland Animal Defense’s political speech is part of a larger crackdown on political speech generally, both in the U.S. and in Canada. From the silencing of war dissenters, anti-government surveillance and spying activists, to the repression of the animal rights movement that threatens large business profits, it is clear Marineland has sought refuge from and is using the courts as a weapon in its conservative political agenda aiming to maximize profits no matter what the cost, even at the cost of the enslavement and torture of such intelligent animals as marine mammals.

We urge members and supporters to call on politicians (below) in the Province of Ontario to pass Bill 83 – anti SLAPP legislation, which will provide the mechanism to remove these frivolous lawsuits from the court system.  For an overview of Marineland’s legal threats, actions and strategy, visit

Jagmeet Singh (NDP Justice Critic) – 905-799-3939 / [email protected] / @jagmeetNDP

Julia Munro (Tory Justice Critic) – 416-325-3392 / [email protected]

Lorenzo Berardinetti (Liberal Justice) – 416-325-1008 / [email protected]

Hon John Gerretsen (Attorney General) – 416-326-2220 / [email protected]

The Animal Rights Activism Committee works to end oppression and exploitation of non-human animals. The committee engages Guild members to advocate for changes in the law to recognize the rights of non-human animals, and to provide legal support and resources to animal rights activists. It works in coalition with other groups to fight–in the courts and in the streets–to liberate non-human animals.  The National Lawyers Guild, founded in 1937, is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in every state.

Update from Lynne Stewart

Dear Guild members,

The NLG-NYC has sent the linked letters to Charles Samuels, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder calling again for the compassionate release of Lynne Stewart.

We urge chapter members to take similar action,  outlined in Lynne’s most recent letter below.

August 10th, 2013

Friends, Supporters, Comrades:

Well, we are once again being educated in the meaning of “protracted struggle”, not that anyone wanted or needed this.  It was clear yesterday in Court in NYC that Judge Koeltl was not going to act solely within the “spirit ” of the law but would instead rely upon the Bureau of Prisons to make a “legal” motion on my behalf.  Although the lawyers valiantly argued that justice does not allow for a “right” without a “remedy”, in my case, the right to die at home and the fact that there is no appeal(remedy)from the Bureau’s decision.

There are new and compelling facts now before the BOP–the prognosis now of 18 months and the fact that the PET scan revealed that the most serious cancer (of the lungs) is getting worse.  The Judge yesterday, asked the Government to concede (as their papers did by not contesting any facts) that I qualified in every respect for the release.  They, of course, remained silent.   For that reason I am asking once again that all of you send a “shout” out to the BOP [Federal Bureau of Prisons], AG Holder and Pres. Obama and express any outrage you might feel that the days and months are ticking by and I remain in Texas.  The DC Prison Bureaucracy clearly would just as soon see me die here.

So, not to be discouraged or disheartened by this latest legal impediment–the walls of Jericho DID come tumbling down, eventually !!

Love Struggle,

NLG-NYC Supports Striking LSSA Staff Attorneys

[PDF of letter available here]

May 16, 2013

Raun Rasmussen, Executive Director
Joseph Genova, Board Chair
Legal Services, NYC
40 Worth Street, Suite 606
New York, NY 10013

The National Lawyers Guild-NYC Chapter fully supports the members of the Legal Services Staff Association UAW Local 2320 who were forced to go on strike on May 15. The Chapter urges the management of Legal Services NYC to immediately negotiate a fair contract with its staff. The current offer that was unacceptable to LSNYC staff fails to address key issues, including the ratio of management to staff. Currently Legal Services NYC has a ratio of 1 manager to every 3 bargaining unit employees, a seemingly wasteful ratio compared with the Legal Aid Society, which operates with 1 manager for every 5 employees.

Failing to address the issue of ratios, LSNYC instead attempts to slash healthcare benefits, virtually eliminating fertility treatments, a vitally needed service for couples trying to create a family. LSNYC also goes after 403(b) retirement benefits, seeking to cut them by 29%. For an organization that already offers its employees no pension, such cuts to retirement benefits are unpalatable.

Perhaps most alarmingly, these cuts do not just affect the employees of the organization, but will also diminish the client services central to the mission of Legal Services NYC. By undercutting employee benefits without a corresponding salary increase, LSNYC management force LSSA members out on strike, and the poor people of New York City who are served by LSNYC are denied the representation so critical to defending their rights.

We urge the management of Legal Services NYC to return to the bargaining table in good faith. The current offer from management would result in no cost-of-living salary increase, reduced healthcare, and cuts to retirement, and does not appear to be fiscally necessary. These givebacks will not serve the short-term interests of the staff, or the long-term interests of the organization and its clients. Looking upon an organization that prides itself on providing justice to vulnerable clients, we ask: Where is the justice for the staff of Legal Services NYC?

The National Lawyers Guild, founded in 1937, is the oldest and largest public interest/human rights bar organization in the United States. Its headquarters are in New York and it has chapters in every state.

National Lawyers Guild, New York City Chapter

NLG-NYC condemns police killing of sixteen-year old Kimani Gray

National Lawyers Guild – New York City Chapter (NLG-NYC) condemns police killing of sixteen-year old Kimani Gray; repression of protesters

For Immediate Release

March 19, 2013 – New York – The National Lawyers Guild – New York City Chapter (NLG-NYC) condemns the NYPD’s killing of sixteen-year old Kimani Gray on March 9, 2013 in East Flatbush, Brooklyn. Mr. Gray was killed by seven bullets fired by two NYPD officers, both of whom have been sued repeatedly in the past for civil rights violations. The Chapter expresses our heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Gray at this time of tragic loss and continues to strive for the day when the children of New York City are protected from police killings and violence.

Continue reading “NLG-NYC condemns police killing of sixteen-year old Kimani Gray”

Save the Date! Attica is All of Us

Join us on Friday, September 9, 2011 at The Riverside Church for Attica is All of Us, an evening of music, performances and conversation to mark the 40th anniversary of the Attica Rebellion and Massacre and address mass incarceration and current prison struggles. Free and open to the public.


  • Attica Brothers, represented by:
    Joseph Harris
    Calvin “Hutch” Hutchinson
    William Anthony Maynard
    Melvin Muhammad
    Carlos Roche
    Al Hajji Sharif
  • Asha Bandele, Drug Policy Alliance, Journalist
  • Baba Amiri Baraka, African-American Poet Laureate, Pan-African Elder Statesman, & Community Activist
  • Dhoruba Al-Mujahid Bin-Wahad, Consultant, Institute For Development of Pan-African Policy, Ghana, W. Africa
  • Soffiyah Elijah, Executive Director, Correctional Association
  • Elizabeth Fink, Attica Brothers Legal Defense
  • Amy Goodman, Journalist, Author; Host and Executive Director, Democracy Now!
  • Joseph “Jazz” Hayden, Campaign to End the New Jim Crow
  • Jamal Joseph, former Black Panther; Chair, Columbia University’s School of the Arts Film division
  • Cornel West, Professor, Public Intellectual & Activist and more….

Attica is All of Us
Friday, September 9, 2011
7-10 P.M. (doors open at 6:30 P.M.)

490 Riverside Drive
New York, NY 10027
(Enter on Claremont Avenue)

Presented by Attica is All of Us and The Riverside Church Prison Ministry. In collaboration with the Campaign to End Jim Crow, The Culture Project and The Nation.


For more information on the Attica Prison Rebellion, click here.