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Burt Joseph leaves his body: An inspiring person and veteran Constitutional lawyer

Mar 31, 2010 Burt Joseph leaves his body: An inspiring person and veteran Constitutional lawyer

Burt Joseph talks about his decades of ACLU work. More of the interview is here.

In 2001 I attended my first First Amendment Lawyers Association meeting, in New Orleans, pre-Katrina. The meeting room included giants of the First Amendment, including those who got battle scars during such earlier dark days (as opposed to the present excessive civil liberties darkness) as the Reagan administration’s obscenity prosecutions, fighting right up through the Supreme Court for First Amendment rights of adult entertainment, and fighting for activists.

Among those I met early on was Burt Joseph. He was so much without an ego that I had to learn beyond Burt himself how much of a giant he was. He was legal counsel to the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. He was a pioneering leader with the ACLU in Chicago. He was involved in founding the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

Burt was involved with obscenity defense before Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15 (1973). He defended people arrested during the 1968 Democratic Presidential Convention in Chicago. He did legal work for Playboy.

Here I am in 2000, in the face of all these giants, and many more great lawyers who have already reached greatness if not giant status. And I find so many welcoming people and souls of this groups having a relatively small number of members compared to other national lawyers groups of note. Burt was one of those giants, and he had been practicing law since 1952, before the world had even discovered Elvis. He had a warm heart, and an easygoing manner. He was a true gentleman and gentle soul in the tradition of the Dalai Lama.

Last night Burt passed away. I have not found any reports yet on Google about his passing, but learned about it from someone who knew him well. Many others knew Burt much better and for much longer than I, and are in a better position than I to write about him. I do not write many blogposts about those who pass, but when my life has been touched in such a positive way as Burt touched mine, I blog about it.

If there is an afterlife, I am sure that Burt is continuing to have fun fighting the good fight and living the good and optimistic life. If there is no afterlife, Burt’s legacy lives on through the many lives he has positively touched.

Thank you, Burt, for you. Na Mu Myo Ho Ren Ge Kyo.

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