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Florynce Kennedy: “If you’re not living on the edge, then you’re taking up space”

Apr 11, 2007 Florynce Kennedy: “If you’re not living on the edge, then you’re taking up space”

Achieving social justice often calls for partnership among litigators and non-litigators. (Republication permission granted to the public by photographer Michael Walter).

Recently, I learned about the late Florynce Kennedy, a radical lawyer who once said: "Sweetie … if you’re not living on the edge, then you’re taking up space." I can only imagine what she would have said to a lawyer unwilling to do anything but draft commercial real estate contracts and trust documents for rich people. Among Ms. Kennedy’s notable clients was Scum Manifesto author Valerie Solanas, who in 1968 shot and nearly killed Andy Warhol and reported it to a traffic police officer the same day.

William Kunstler was another radical lawyer who drew my attention several years ago. Like myself, he started out practicing mainstream civil law (in his case, small business and family law). Bill Kunstler inspired me with his maintaining a balance of humor while fighting for justice. For instance, he would bring coffee and donuts to the Jewish Defense League members who would protest outside his office for his representation of El Sayyid Nosair. During summers in upstate New York, he sent his daughters to a summer camp run by conservative Christians, seeing that it did not seem to cause any problems for his daughters (who perhaps littered the camp with progressive radical tracts and rants).

Tony Serra is another radical lawyer who has drawn my attention. His courtroom skills are legendary. I hope to see him in action after he is released from jail on his conviction for tax evasion. More about Tony is here and here

Any radicalism I have — if it could be called that — pales in comparison to the radicalism of the foregoing lawyers. Jon Katz.

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