Arthur Kinoy was one of the last great civil rights lawyers: lawyers who use law and litigation to achieve political goals. He died on September 19, 2003 at his home in Montclair, New Jersey. He was 82.

Born September 20, 1920, Arthur Kinoy grew up in Brooklyn, went to Harvard University (A.B., 1941), served in the United States Army during World War II, and then went to law school at Columbia University (LL.B. 1947).

Kinoy was denounced by a Senator Eastland of Missouri, chairman of the "Senate Internal Security Subcommittee ", as having worked for Communist and subversive organizations from his student days onward, organizations such as unions, the ACLU and the National Lawyers Guild, which according to the Senator was "the foremost legal bulwark of the Communist Party, its front organizations, and controlled unions". (Historical Note: the 60's use of the term "Communist" was roughly equivalent to contemporary, indiscriminate use of the word "terrorist"). Highlights of the Senator's denunciation:

Arthur Kinoy took an active part in the defense of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, who were executed on June 19, 1953, after conviction of atomic espionage. Kinoy made two last-minute efforts to save the Rosenbergs from execution.
Kinoy has been associated with the National Lawyers Guild for a long time. He was national vice president of that organization in 1954. Ten years later, he was still active in the work of the National Lawyers Guild. The June 13, 1964 issue of the Michigan Chronicle, a weekly Detroit newspaper in the Negro community, reported Kinoy as having participated in a conference sponsored by the National Lawyers Guild Committee for Legal Assistance in the South, the purpose of the conference being to brief attorneys on legal problems confronting civil rights demonstrators in Mississippi."

During the 1950's and 1960's, Kinoy did extensive legal work for civil rights activists in the South. From 1964 to 1991, Kinoy was on the faculty of Rutgers School of Law. From 1964 until 1967, he was a partner in the law firm of Kunstler, Kunstler & Kinoy of New York City, and with Kunstler was one of the founders of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

In 1966, Kinoy was representing student antiwar activists at a hearing of the House Un-American Activities Committee, when the chairman of the committee decided to have him removed from the room for making objections. News photographers caught federal marshals, holding Mr. Kinoy by the neck, removing him the the hearing. (Picture of Kinoy being choked as he is physically removed from HUAC committee room). Kinoy was convicted of "disorderly conduct" for the incident. The 1968 Court of Appeals opinion throwing out Kinoy's conviction described his objections before the committee as "loud and boisterous". Mr. Kinoy was very proud of this description, and never failed to mention it when, in recent years, he would tour law schools and speak to students, saying: "one of the skills you all must learn to be a lawyer for the people is how to be loud and boisterous."

Kinoy and his partner William Kunstler represented the Chicago Seven, anti-war activists charged with inciting riots during the 1968 Democratic Convention. The charges against the Chicago 7 were farcical, since it was the police who rioted, at the direction of Mayor Daley, not the anti-war protestors. Kinoy's clients, in turn, made the trial into a farce, and their convictions were overturned on appeal in 1972.

Arthur Kinoy argued in the United States Supreme Court six (6) times, and five times out of six won important precedents for civil rights. See, e.g. Dombrowski v. Pfister, 380 U.S. 479 (1965); Powell v. McCormack, 395 U.S. 486 (1969); U.S. v. U.S. District Court, 407 U.S. 297 (1972). For example, in U.S. v. U.S. District Court the Supreme Court upheld Kinoy's contention that the President (then Richard M. Nixon) had no "inherent power" to suspend the Fourth Amendment and wiretap domestic political organizations without a warrant.

Arthur Kinoy remained active in the National Lawyer's Guild until his death, and in particular, through student chapters of the Guild at law schools, tried to inspire and encourage another generation of civil rights lawyers.

Recommended Reading:

  • Kinoy, Arthur: Rights on Trial: Odyssey of a People's Lawyer, Harvard University, 1983.

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