This week the progressive legal community and the social justice movement lost a giant in the passing of Michael Ratner, the long-time leader of the Center for Constitutional Rights and former president of the National Lawyers Guild. The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund expresses its sincerest and most heartfelt condolences to his family, friends, collaborators and comrades.
Michael embodied the proudest of legal traditions, defending the defenseless against all odds. His tireless work on so many important cases left an indelible mark on history, on a whole generation of attorneys, and on the law itself.
Fearless and bold, Michael cut his teeth defending Attica inmates against the State of New York and one of the last major cases he oversaw struck down the NYPD's draconian Stop-and-Frisk policing. In the intervening decades, his work touched the whole world with cases that targeted U.S.-backed death squad governments, the Blackwater mercenary corporation, the war-makers and torturers of the Bush administration and the extrajudicial assassinations and drone warfare of the Obama administration. Significant to his legacy is the fact that he stood for the rights of Palestinians when few others would. In steering the monumental legal effort that fought on behalf of Guantanamo detainees, he showed civil liberties advocates and attorneys everywhere that it was right to fight on principle and against the tide of demonization.
Heidi Boghosian, Michael's co-host on the "Law and Disorder" radio program and member of the PCJF Board stated, "Michael Ratner was the embodiment of a radical people's lawyer, bringing injustices to the fore when the chances of prevailing in court were slim. He was impelled by an abiding sense of fairness, infused with a love of the human condition and a down-to-earth demeanor. Michael was a rare example of how the law can best serve humanity."
"Michael was not simply a constitutional rights lawyer fighting for those fundamental rights as well as defending radicals," said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, PCJF Executive Director. "He was a radical himself and devoted his entire life to fighting for radical change in America, as well as an internationalist supporting the struggles of people everywhere demanding liberation and justice."
Michael Ratner will be sorely missed. He has left a proud legacy as a crusader for justice, and the best way to honor him is to continue that work.
Michael Ratner, presente!