Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

William M. Kunstler


William Moses Kunstler was born July 7, 1919 in New York city. His father was a physician. He was educated at Yale University (B.A. degree in 1941) and Columbia University (law degree in 1948). He made his home in New York City. Kunstler was admitted to the New York bar in 1948. From 1946 to 1950 he was a lecturer in English at Columbia University. Before taking up the practice of law he was an executive trained at Macy's (1948-49). From 1948 to 1974, Kunstler practiced law out of his New York law office and from 1969 as attorney and cofounder of the Center for Constitutional Rights. He was a lecturer at New York Law School, 1949-1951, assistant professor from 1951-1954, and an associate professor from 1954-162. He was a lecturer at the New School for Social Research from 1966 to 1971. Kunstler was a director of the American Civil Liberties Union from 1964 to 1972 and thereafter a member of the ACLU national council.

Kunstler served in the Army during WW II in the Pacific, and attained the rank of Major. He received the Bronze Star.

Kunstler, in an interview with the editors of Contemporary Authors was asked if he approached the law "with the heart of a poet," he replied:

I would like to think that. My first book was a book of poetry, and I spent a lot of my time doing public readings of my poetry with many other poets. In fact, as you talk to me I am preparing a document attempting to reduce or lower or vacate the sentence of Amiri Baraka, LeRoi Jones, a poet and playwright. A lot of my life has revolved around poetry and it would be difficult to say that it didn't enter into my so-called legal life. I use it a lot—I quote it in summations, I spend a lot of my spare time writing it or listening to it or reading it aloud . . . . [Ann Evoy (ed.), Contemporary Authors 311-315 (Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1982)(New Revisions Series, Vol. 5)(Jean W. Ross interview)]

_______________, Hints & Allegation: The World (In Poetry and Prose)(New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 1994)


William M. Kunstler, My Life as a Radical Lawyer (New York: Birch Lane, 1994)


William M. Kunstler, The Law of Accidents (New York: Oceana Publications, 1954)

_______________, First Degree (New York: Oceana Publications, 1960)

_______________, Beyond a Reasonable Doubt? The Original Trial of Caryl Chessman (New York: Morrow, 1961)(Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1973)

_______________, The Case for Courage: The Stories of Ten Famous American Attorneys Who Risked Their Careers in the Cause of Justice (New York: Morrow, 1962)

_______________, And Justice For All (Dobbs Ferry, New York: Oceana, 1963)[republished as Politics on Trial: Five Famous Trials of the 20th Century (Ocean Press, 2003)(introduction & case notes by Karin Kunstler Goldman, Micahel Ratner & Michael Steven Smith)]

_______________, The Minister and the Choir Singer: The Hall-Mills Murder Case (New York: Morrow, 1964)(published as The Hall-Mills Murder Case: The Minister and the Choir Singer, Rutgers University Press, 1980)

_______________, Deep in My Heart (New York: Morrow, 1966)

_______________, My Life as a Radical Lawyer (Secaucus, New Jersey: Carol Publications, 1994)


David J. Langum, William M. Kunstler: The Most Hated Lawyer in America (New York: New York University Press, 1999)

Michael Steven Smith, Lawyers You'll Like: Putting Human Rights First (Union City, New Jersey: Smyrna Press, 1999)(containing an interview with Kunstler)

Contempt: Transcript of the Contempt Citations, Sentences, and Responses of the Chicago Conspiracy 10 (Chicago: Swallow Press 1970)