Since 1937, the National Lawyers Guild has been on the forefront in the struggle for civil rights. Here in the District of Columbia, the D.C. chapter of the NLG has kept busy defending protesters, political dissidents, immigrants, and the unrepresented.
The National Lawyers Guild is an association dedicated to the need for basic change in the structure of our political and economic system. We seek to unite the lawyers, law students, legal workers and jailhouse lawyers of America in an organization that shall function as an effective political and social force in the service of the people, to the end that human rights shall be regarded as more sacred than property interests.
Our aim is to bring together all those who recognize the importance of safeguarding and extending the rights of workers, women, farmers and minority groups, upon whom the welfare of the entire nation depends; who seek actively to eliminate racism; who work to maintain and protect our civil rights and liberties in the face of persistent attacks upon them; and who look upon the law as an instrument for the protection of the people, rather than for their repression.
Founded in 1937 the National Lawyers Guild was the nation’s first racially integrated bar association. The first Guild lawyers supported President Roosevelt’s New Deal, assisted the emerging industrial labor movement, and opposed the racial segregation policies of the American Bar Association and the larger society. During its 65 year history, the NLG has been an important part of the American people’s struggle for real democracy, for economic and social justice, and against oppression and discrimination based on race, ethnicity, immigration status, class, gender or sexual orientation. Consistent with its commitment to ensuring fairness and equality for all people, law students, non-lawyer legal workers and inmate legal experts are full members. The Guild elected its first African-American president in the early 1950s and its first female president in the 1960s. The first legal worker president was elected in 1996.
District of Columbia Chapter
Today, Guild attorneys are involved in progressive, radical, and left-wing struggles, causes, and movements right here in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. Legal observers and mass defense attorneys have assisted the Black Lives Matter movement, the Occupy DC protests, environmentalists opposed to area fracking and oil pipelines, immigrant rights activists, anti-war demonstrations, labor unionists and workers. The Chapter testified on behalf of marijuana legalization in D.C. and has launched a major investigation into mistreatment of prisoners at Virginia’s Red Onion State Prison.
Guild attorneys, legal workers, law students, and other members continue to collaborate in sharing experience and expertise in the form of working groups, study groups, and social groups. Chapter events like happy hours and the annual Disorientation workshop for law students at area law schools, provide an environment where progressive, radical, and left-wing attorneys can network, share experience, and pass on wisdom.
Guild members are defending activists, representing immigrants facing deportation, testifying in federal and state legislatures against civil liberties cutbacks. They are using their experience and professional skills to help build the 21st Century grassroots movements that are and will be necessary to protect civil liberties and to defend democracy now and in the future.