Meeting the Guild

Nov 05, 2007 Meeting the Guild


Bill of Rights (From public domain.)

Numerous times I have blogged about the National Lawyers Guild, including my many points of departure from the organization. This past Thursday through Sunday, for the first time I met Guild members from around the nation — as opposed to only local and Mid-Atlantic members whom I already know  — at the Guild’s annual convention in Washington, D.C.

With a competing court and personal calendar, I only got a chance to spend a few hours at the convention. Fortunately, during that time I met numerous Guild members with whom I had only conversed — and sometimes sparred — by listserv, email, and phone. A big problem with email remains the human face that often is absent from such messages, often with people pressing the "send" key too quickly, without pausing to consider being more diplomatic. The Guild has many very likable members — even including those with whom I vehemently disagree on some of my most critical points of departure that I discuss here. People become active in the Guild not to burnish their resumes — seeing in part that the Guild is not perceived as an establishment legal organization — but to serve justice (as each member defines justice) without any other agenda.

Among the Guild convention attendees were two fellow attendees at the 1994 Trial Practice Institute of the two-week essential National Criminal Defense College, which was held in Atlanta pending recovery from the flooding in Macon. One fellow NCDC attendee and I spent much free time together during the 1994 program, and later found on the Guild’s now-defunct national listserv (which I very much objected to being disbanded — disbanded for no other reason, apparently, than many strongly-worded messages that the leadership decided would either mean a moderated listserv (which became a reality, over my strong objections against a moderated listerv) or not posted at all (and the leadership decided it had become too time consuming to do the moderation)) that we hold very different views about the Guild’s approach to Israel (with me being in the significant minority of members feeling the Guild is too one-sided against Israel). Nevertheless, at the conference, we picked up where we left off in Atlanta, and left our differing views unspoken beyond acknowledging that they still exist. Another fellow NCDC member is a non-practicing lawyer in Chicago who is full of the type of optimism that helps recharge my own batteries; with him, too, we picked up from where we left off in 1994.

The Guild convention included support for Japanese lawyers working to keep alive Article 9 of the Japanese constitution (which apparently came into being after being positively reviewed by the United States government subsequent to World War II), which provides for a Japan that for the most part does not go to war; Japan is feeling pressure from the United States, at the very least, to modify this approach, apparently to become involved in international peacekeeping forces. Two of the Japanese lawyers at the convention estimated that around ten percent of Japanese lawyers might be classified as "progressive", but said that there is not much of a death penalty abolition movement there, despite ongoing executions. Jon Katz.

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