The OWS Legal Team
The radical lawyers who sought to bring occupiers back to Zuccotti Park


Boyle has also defended a number of members of the Black Panthers and the Black Liberation Army. He attempted to win parole for Jalil Abdul Muntaqim, a so-called “political prisoner” who was convicted of murdering two New York City police officers.

Daniel Alterman and the late William Kunstler — a radical lawyer who married Margaret Ratner Kunstler after she divorced Michael Ratner — were involved in the defense of several rioters from the 1971 Attica prison riots in New York. Alterman includes his work for the convicts involved in the riot as “among his proudest achievements.” At Attica, there was a brutal riot that involved prisoners’ taking ten guards hostage, and the New York State Police became overly violent in response, but Alterman sees a problem with only one side: In his view, his work was “a story about justice” and “the legitimate complaints of the inmates.”

Michael Ratner also attempted and failed to secure a writ of habeas corpus on appeal for Pedro Gutierrez, a Bronx man convicted of “assorted crimes arising from a fatal shooting incident among rival drug dealers,” on the grounds that a piece of evidence had not been available to his defense. The appeal was necessary because a lower court had already refused the writ — the type of evidentiary mistake that had been made was, according to other precedent, “harmless in view of the overwhelming evidence of defendant’s guilt.” Despite overwhelming evidence of his guilt, Ratner was still insistent that Gutierrez had been unfairly treated by the criminal-justice system.

More amusingly, in 2009, attorney Yett Kurland worked to ban tour buses from her neighborhood in the West Village, arguing that their “noise pollution” was greatly compromising the residents’ quality of life, and promising an investigation into “all the environmental hazards that these tour buses may pose.” Surely if buses using public streets for their intended purpose must defer to the community’s quality-of-life concerns, protesters have no right to occupy a private park and damage the neighborhood’s environment without being held to the same standards.

It is not surprising that Occupy Wall Street has chosen a slate of far-left lawyers to defend it against the demands of the city and the park’s owners. The legal team fancies itself a defender of the oppressed and marginalized; the occupiers now claim that label for the “99 percent.”

— Patrick Brennan is a 2011 William F. Buckley fellow.


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