William Kunstler
Name: William Kunstler
Occupation: Lawyer
Gender: Male
Birth Day: July 7, 1919
Age: 101
Birth Place: New York City, United States
Zodiac Sign: Cancer

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William Kunstler

William Kunstler was born on July 7, 1919 in New York City, United States (101 years old). William Kunstler is a Lawyer, zodiac sign: Cancer. Nationality: United States. Approx. Net Worth: Undisclosed.

Brief Info

Attorney for radical and sometimes controversial figures like the Chicago Seven, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Colin Ferguson, who shot six people to death.


He enjoyed defending the unpopular partly because of the publicity he got from it, and partly, he said, because he didn't want the state to become all-powerful.

Net Worth 2020

Find out more about William Kunstler net worth here.


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Before Fame

As a teenager he ran around committing petty crimes with a gang called The Red Devils.


Biography Timeline


Kunstler was born to a Jewish family in New York City, the son of Frances Mandelbaum and Monroe Bradford Kunstler, a physician. He attended DeWitt Clinton High School. He was educated at Yale College, graduating Phi Beta Kappa in 1941, and Columbia University Law School from which he graduated in 1948. While in school, Kunstler was an avid poet and represented Yale in the Glascock Prize competition at Mount Holyoke College.


After his discharge from the Army he attended law school, was admitted to the bar in New York in 1948 and began practicing law. Kunstler went through R.H. Macy's executive training program in the late 1940s and practiced family and small business law in the 1950s, before entering civil rights litigation in the 1960s. He was an associate professor of law at New York Law School (1950–1951).


Kunstler won honorable mention for the National Legal Aid Association's press award in 1957 for his series of radio broadcasts on WNEW, "The Law on Trial". At WNEW, Kunstler also conducted interviews on controversial topics, such as the Alger Hiss case, on a program called Counterpoint.

Kunstler first made headlines in 1957 when he defended William Worthy, a correspondent for the Baltimore Afro-American, who was one of forty-two Americans who had their passports seized after violating the State Department's travel ban on Communist China (after attending a Communist youth conference in Moscow). Kunstler refused a State Department compromise which would have returned Worthy's passport if he agreed to cease visiting Communist countries, a condition Worthy considered unconstitutional.


Kunstler played an important role as a civil rights lawyer in the 1960s, traveling to many of the segregated battlegrounds to work to free those who had been jailed. Working on behalf of the ACLU, Kunstler defended the Freedom Riders in Mississippi in 1961. Kunstler filed for a writ of habeas corpus with Sidney Mize, a federal judge in Biloxi, and appealed to the Fifth Circuit; he also filed similar pleas in state courts. Judge Leon Hendrick in Hinds County refused Kunstler's motion to cancel the mass appearance (involving hundreds of miles of travel) of all 187 convicted riders. The riders were convicted in a bench trial in Jackson and appealed to a county jury trial, where Kunstler argued that the county systematically discriminated against African-American jurors.


In 1962, Kunstler took part in efforts to integrate public parks and libraries in Albany, Georgia. Later that year, he published The Case for Courage (modeled on President Kennedy's Profiles in Courage) highlighting the efforts of other lawyers who risked their careers for controversial clients as well as similar acts by public servants. At the time of the publication, Kunstler was already well known for his work with the Freedom Riders, his book on the Caryl Chessman case, and his radio coverage of trials. Kunstler also joined a group of lawyers criticizing the application of Alabama's civil libel laws and spoke at a rally against HUAC.


In 1963, for the Gandhi Society of New York, Kunstler filed to remove the cases of more than 100 arrested African-American demonstrators from the Danville Corporation Court to the Charlottesville District Court, under a Reconstruction Era statute. Although the district judge remanded the cases to city court, he dissolved the city's injunction against demonstrations. In doing so, Judge Thomas J. Michie rejected a Justice Department amicus curiae brief urging the removal to create a test case for the statute. Kunstler appealed to the Fourth Circuit. That year Kunstler also sued public housing authorities in Westchester County.


In 1964, Kunstler defended a group of four accused of kidnapping a white couple, and succeeded in getting the alleged weapons thrown out as evidence, as they could not be positively identified as those used. That year he also challenged Mississippi's unpledged elector law as well as racial segregation in primary elections; he also defended three members of the Blood Brothers, a Harlem gang, charged with murder.

Kunstler went to St. Augustine, Florida in 1964 during the demonstrations led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Dr. Robert B. Hayling which put added pressure on Congress to pass the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964. Kunstler brought the first federal case under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which allowed the removal of cases from county court to be appealed; the defendants were protestors at the 1964 New York World's Fair.


In 1965, Kunstler's firm Kunstler, Kunstler, and Kinoy was asked to defend Jack Ruby by his brother Earl, but dropped the case because they "did not wish to be in a situation where we have to fight to get into the case". Ruby was eventually permitted to replace his original defense team with Kunstler, who got him a new trial. In 1966, he also defended an arsonist who burned down a Jewish Community Center, killing twelve, because he was not provided a lawyer before he signed a confession.


He was a director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) from 1964 to 1972, when he became a member of the ACLU National Council. In 1966 he co-founded the Center for Constitutional Rights. Kunstler also worked with the National Lawyers Guild.


During the 1994–95 television season, Kunstler starred as himself in an episode of Law & Order titled "White Rabbit", defending a woman charged with complicity in the 1971 murder of a policeman during the robbery of an armored car; the plot was based on the real-life story of Katherine Ann Power, who turned herself in to authorities in 1993.


The progress of the trial—which had many aspects of guerrilla theater—was covered on the nightly news and made Kunstler the best-known lawyer in the country, and something of a folk hero. After much deadlock, the jury acquitted all seven on the conspiracy charge, but convicted five of violating the anti-riot provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1968. The Seventh Circuit overturned all the convictions on November 21, 1972 due to Hoffman's refusal to let defense lawyers question the prospective jurors on racial and cultural biases; the Justice Department did not retry the case.


Kunstler arrived in Pine Ridge, South Dakota on March 4, 1973 to draw up the demands of the American Indian Movement (AIM) members involved in the Wounded Knee incident. Kunstler, who headed the defense, called the trial "the most important Indian trial of the 20th century", attempting to center the defense on the Treaty of Fort Laramie (1868). Kunstler's team represented Russell Means and Dennis Banks, two of the leaders of the occupation.


In 1975, Kunstler again defended AIM members in the slaying of two FBI agents at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, not far from the site of the Wounded Knee incident. At the trial in 1976, Kunstler subpoenaed prominent government officials to testify about the existence of a Counter-Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) against Native American activists. District Judge Edward J. McManus approved Kunstler's attempt to subpoena FBI director Clarence M. Kelley.


Despite Justice King's repeated warnings to Kunstler to "be careful, sir", Kunstler quickly became "the star of the trial, the man the jurors watch most attentively, and the lawyer whose voice carries most forcefully". Although the prosecution was careful to avoid personal confrontation with Kunstler, who frequently charmed the jury with jokes, on one occasion Kunstler provoked a shouting match with the lead prosecutor, allegedly to wake up a sleeping jury member. The jury convicted Hill of murder and Pernasilice of attempted assault. When Kunstler protested that the defendants would risk being murdered due to the judges remanding them, King threatened to send Kunstler with them. New York Governor Hugh Carey granted executive clemency to Hill and the other inmates in 1976, even though Hill's name was not on the recommended list of pardons delivered to the governor and his appeals were still pending.


Kunstler joined the defense staff of Assata Shakur in 1977, charged in New Jersey with a variety of felonies in connection with a 1973 shootout with New Jersey State Troopers. Shakur, sentenced to life imprisonment, in early 1979 escaped from prison. In 1984 Shakur was granted asylum in Cuba by Fidel Castro , who called the charges “an infamous lie". William Kunstler told reporters in 1979 that Shakur's health had declined in prison; he said: “I was very happy that she escaped because I thought she was unfairly tried".


In 1979, Kunstler represented Marvin Barnes, an ABA and NBA basketball player, with past legal troubles and league discipline problems.


From 1983 until Kunstler's death in 1995, Ron Kuby was his partner. The two took on controversial civil rights and criminal cases, including cases where they represented Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, head of the Egyptian-based terrorist group Gama'a al-Islamiyah, responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; Colin Ferguson, the man responsible for the 1993 Long Island Rail Road shooting, who would later reject Kuby & Kunstler's legal counsel and choose to represent himself at trial; Qubilah Shabazz, the daughter of Malcolm X, accused of plotting to murder Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam; Glenn Harris, a New York City public school teacher who absconded with a fifteen-year-old girl for two months; Nico Minardos, a flamboyant actor indicted by Rudy Giuliani for conspiracy to ship arms to Iran; Darrell Cabey, one of the persons shot by Bernard Goetz; and associates of the Gambino crime family.


Kunstler appeared as a lawyer in the movie The Doors in 1991, as a judge in the movie Malcolm X in 1992, and as himself in several television documentaries.


In 1993 Kunstler represented Yusuf Saalam of the Central Park 5 during his appeal, a move which alienated several friends. After Kunstler's death Saalam would be proven innocent when Matias Reyes confessed and DNA proved that Reyes was the sole attacker.


In late 1995, Kunstler died in New York City of heart failure at the age of 76. In his last major public appearance, at the commencement ceremonies for the University at Buffalo's School of Architecture and Planning, Kunstler lambasted the death penalty, saying, "We have become the charnel house of the Western world with reference to executions; the next closest to us is the Republic of South Africa."

🎂 Upcoming Birthday

Currently, William Kunstler is 102 years, 5 months and 1 days old. William Kunstler will celebrate 103rd birthday on a Thursday 7th of July 2022.

Find out about William Kunstler birthday activities in timeline view here.

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