Kunstler, William Moses

Kunstler, William Moses, 1919–95, American lawyer, b. New York City, grad. Yale (1941), Columbia law school (1948). Flamboyant and often brilliant, Kunstler defended the unpopular and unfailingly supported left-wing causes and clients. He represented his first controversial case in the 1950s, and by the 1960s was working with the American Civil Liberties Union and representing Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders. His most famous case was the Chicago Seven, whom he defended against charges of inciting a riot at the 1968 Democratic convention. Other cases included his defense of the American Indian Movement at Wounded Knee (1974), of prisoners in the Attica riots (1975), of drug dealer Larry Davis (1986), of gangster John Gotti (1992), and of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and other accused terrorists in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. He wrote The Case for Courage (1962), Trials and Tribulations (1985), The Emerging Police State (2004), and other books.

See his My Life as a Radical Lawyer (1994); biography by D. J. Langum (1999); E. and S. Kunstler, dir., William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe (documentary, 2009).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: U.S. History: Biographies