Yesterday, lawyers for the Occupy Wall Street movement successfully filed for a temporary restraining order with a New York court. On paper, at least — the Bloomberg administration did not comply — Justice Lucy Billings’s ruling allowed the protesters to return to Zuccotti Park between yesterday morning’s eviction and yesterday afternoon’s full hearing. She temporarily barred the city and the private owners of the park from preventing the occupation or keeping the occupiers from setting up tents.
Justice Billings is perhaps the ideal enabler for the occupiers. Her liberal credentials are sterling: She graduated from the University of California–Berkeley’s law school in 1973, was admitted to the Vermont bar in 1974, and went on to spend 25 years working for the American Civil Liberties Union, where she worked, according to her official biography online, “to enforce new rights for minority, disabled, and low-income persons” and “forged new legal remedies by litigating issues not previously addressed in housing, environmental justice . . . public health, child welfare, education, and employment.” And her role may not have been coincidental; the Daily News reports: “Asked why they called her first, protest lawyer Daniel Alterman wouldn’t say, remarking that he’s not a ‘gossip guy.’”
Speaking of the protest’s lawyers, most of them are affiliated with the National Lawyers Guild, a group of explicitly progressive lawyers whose mission calls for the “reconstruction of legal values to emphasize human rights over property rights.” That philosophy runs throughout much of their work, which has consistently championed the preferences of “marginalized” groups over the rule of law. Here is a guide to Occupy Wall Street’s legal counsel.
Michael Ratner and Margaret Ratner Kunstler, formerly spouses, are the authors of Hell No: Your Right to Dissent in the Twenty-First Century. One of their favorite forms of dissent, it seems, has been a significant amount of anti-Israel advocacy, including the charge of Israeli “apartheid.” Ratner has accused Israel of “massive violations of Palestinian rights” and “inhuman [sic] treatment of Palestinians.” He has written that Americans have not widely condemned Israel because of “ambivalence about condemning the actions of a people that have experienced pervasive antisemitism and the holocaust.” Alan Levine, another OWS lawyer, has also publicly expressed anti-Israeli arguments. In light of the confirmed presence of anti-Semitic sentiments at OWS and other occupations, the choice of several prominent critics of Israel as counsel is somewhat disturbing — Jewish people appear to be one minority group that neither the occupiers nor human-rights lawyers have much interest in protecting.
Another OWS lawyer, Michael J. Boyle, has an even more worrisome history of advocacy: He has represented no fewer than four men with connections to terrorism, basing his arguments on legal technicalities. Most appallingly, he represented Pakistani terrorist Shahawar Matin Siraj in an appeal of his conviction for plotting to bomb Manhattan’s Herald Square subway station. There was no dispute over Siraj’s guilt; Boyle appealed the decision on the grounds that Siraj had a right to access police records of his own oral statements — an argument that was legally unjustified and rejected.
In 2008, he secured the overturning of a conviction of two Yemeni men, cleric Ali Hassan al-Moayad and his assistant, Mohsen Yahya Zayed, for conspiracy to support al-Qaeda and Hamas. Their conviction was overturned because a witness’s description of a Hamas bombing in Tel Aviv was ruled “inflammatory testimony.” He also defended Osama Awadallah, an associate of two 9/11 hijackers, on perjury charges — Awadallah claimed he didn’t know one of the hijackers, Khalid al-Midhar, despite material evidence that he did. Boyle secured Awadallah’s release, via a dramatic jury reversal, by arguing that Awadallah had unintentionally denied knowing al-Midhar to the FBI.