Quietly carrying on in Kunstler's name.

The 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

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 Convention.

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.