Archive for National Lawyers Guild

Legendary Lawyer Doris Brin Walker Dies; Represented Angela Davis, Smith Act Defendants

Posted in Communist Movement, International Affairs, Law with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 20, 2009 by Umer

by Marjorie Cohn
From the MRZine

Doris “Dobby” Brin Walker, the first woman president of the National Lawyers Guild, died on August 13 at the age of 90. Doris was a brilliant lawyer and a tenacious defender of human rights. The only woman in her University of California Berkeley law school class, Doris defied the odds throughout her life, achieving significant victories for labor, and political activists.

Doris’ legal and political activism spanned several decades and some of the most turbulent but significant periods in US history. She organized workers, fought against Jim Crow and McCarthyism, was active in the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War movements, and vigorously opposed the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

At UCLA, Doris became a Marxist. After she was sworn in as a member of the California State Bar, Doris joined the Communist Party USA, remaining a member until her death. Upon graduation from law school, Doris began practicing labor law; but a few years later, she went to work in California canneries as a labor organizer. When Cutter Labs fired Doris in 1956, the case was appealed all the way to the Supreme Court. Although the Court refused to hear the case, Justice Douglas, joined in dissent by Chief Justice Warren and Justice Black, wrote:

The blunt truth is that Doris Walker is not discharged for misconduct but either because of her legitimate labor union activities or because of her political ideology or belief. Belief cannot be penalized consistently with the First Amendment. . . . The Court today allows belief, not conduct, to be regulated. We sanction a flagrant violation of the First Amendment when we allow California, acting through her highest court, to sustain Mrs. Walker’s discharge because of her belief.

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