The trial of the Conspiracy 8-later-7 has opened a Pandora's box of questions about the American judicial system. Some of these questions concern the revolutionary forces in America. But others strike directly at our thinking about the courts.
Where, for example, does the young lawyer, steeped in the tradition of Brown v. Board of Education.fit into the iconoclastic cultural revolution that is occurring around him? Can he cling to notions like legal aid to the poor, school desegregation and civil liberties while the courtroom is being transformed into guerrilla theater?
Or, will the radical defendant allow himself to be defended by organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union? Have his protests gone beyond traditional questions about rights? As Dwight MacDonald notes in the introduction to The Tales of Hoffman, an edited version of the Chicago trial transcript, "In the new style radical courtroom tactics, either the lawyers share the alienation and often the hair style of their clients, or there are no lawyers."
The following report on the National Conference on Political Justice, held from March 19 to 21, 1970, may help us to understand some of the legal and emotional issues involved. The conference was held at the University of Pennsylvania, an institution that prides itself on not having undergone any violent student disturbances. But for the most part, the speakers assembled at the University brought to its halls a verbal turbulence that is probably without precedent in the school's lengthy history. Moreover, recent events in Bel Air, Maryland and elsewhere fueled the rhetorical heat of the speeches and gave the conference the air of a minor historical happening.
Kas Kalba and Jay Beste
"Lawyers and Revolutionaries: Notes from the National Conference on Political Justice,"
Yale Review of Law and Social Action:
1, Article 5.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/yrlsa/vol1/iss1/5