Kunstler Fund and Kunstler Fund President Margaret Ratner Kunstler are
currently helping over 40 inmates get resentenced under the newly restructured
laws. We need your help to keep this work up.
Quietly Carrying on in Kunstler's Name
By JOSEPH P. FRIED
When William M. Kunstler, the radical lawyer, died at 76
in 1995, he left behind a prominent and controversial legacy of defending
unpopular people and establishment-defying causes with a sympathizer's
vigor and a showman's verve.
He also left behind two people who quickly began bitterly feuding over
that legacy: his wife, Margaret Ratner, and the lawyer he had worked closely
with in his last decade, Ronald L. Kuby.
Mr. Kuby wanted to continue practicing as Kunstler & Kuby, which Mr.
Kunstler began using on his letterheads in 1993, though he had never formally
entered a partnership agreement with Mr. Kuby. Ms. Ratner, above, a lawyer
who also specialized in civil rights and civil liberties, maintained that
Mr. Kuby had been her husband's employee, not his partner, and had no
right to use his name.
She said she wished to reserve Mr. Kunstler's name for a planned social
justice organization that would honor a long career that included representing
the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., countless antiwar and free-speech
figures and the Chicago Seven protesters at the 1968 Democratic National
In litigation that drew public attention, Ms. Ratner won a court ruling
in 1996 that Mr. Kuby cease using Mr. Kunstler's name in his practice.
In the years since, Mr. Kuby, 48, who shared Mr. Kunstler's penchant for
the spotlight, has maintained a steady presence in the public eye, representing
clients like a photographer who shoots groups of nude people he poses
in the street, a Hell's Angels crew in court battles with the police,
and people claiming to have been wrongly convicted. He is also in the
public ear, as co-host of a daily radio talk program on WABC-AM with Curtis
Sliwa, the founder of the Guardian Angels.
By contrast, Ms. Ratner, 59, who at her husband's death had long worked
without fanfare at the Center for Constitutional Rights, has quietly continued
her civil rights and liberties labors, but in private practice.
"I needed money," she said recently of having switched from
her job at the center after Mr. Kunstler died, leaving her with two daughters
who were teenagers at the time.
Her clients include prisoners seeking reductions of long sentences they
received before the state recently eased its drug laws. She also represented
protesters arrested during the Republican National Convention.She is president
of the group formed after her husband's death, the William Moses Kunstler
Fund for Racial Justice. And she has taken her human rights concerns abroad,
leading a delegation of the National Lawyers Guild, a liberal group, on
what she called a "fact-finding mission" into Israel's actions
in the West Bank.
Making clear that she intends to continue working quietly, Ms. Ratner
said, "I don't have the personality that requires adulation."