Tag: civil rights lawyer

R.I.P. Leo Branton Jr., Civil Rights Lawyer Who Defended Angela Davis

April 6, 1972: Defense attorney Leo Branton listens to Angela Davis as the two walk from court at San Jose. For obit of Branton.
April 6, 1972: Defense attorney Leo Branton listens to Angela Davis as the two walk from court at San Jose.

Leo Branton Jr., a civil rights and entertainment lawyer whose stirring defense of ’60s radical Angela Davis brought him his most celebrated victory in a six-decade career often spent championing unpopular cases, died of natural causes Friday in Los Angeles. He was 91.  His death was confirmed by his son Tony Nicholas.

Branton, the only African-American graduate of Northwestern University’s law school in 1948, helped singer Nat King Cole integrate an exclusive Los Angeles neighborhood, defended Communists in McCarthy-era Los Angeles and won misconduct cases against the Los Angeles Police Department decades before Rodney King became a household name.

“He was a hero of mine,” said Connie Rice, a prominent Los Angeles civil rights attorney who helped lead efforts to reform the LAPD after the King beating.  “All the things I’ve done, Leo Branton did 50 years before I even thought about going to law school. He saw himself not as a private practitioner out to make money for himself but as a lawyer with the skills to be a champion for black liberation.”

Continue reading “R.I.P. Leo Branton Jr., Civil Rights Lawyer Who Defended Angela Davis”

Civil Rights Lawyer Michelle Alexander Speaks Against Mass Incarceration: the “New Jim Crow”

At a Monday talk, civil rights lawyer Michelle Alexander condemned mass incarceration of African-Americans as a form of legalized discrimination.

Monday at Yale University, civil rights lawyer Michelle Alexander condemned mass incarceration of African-Americans as a form of legalized discrimination. (Photo/Maria Zepeda)

Michelle Alexander, a civil rights lawyer who gained national renown after publishing the book “The New Jim Crow,” spoke to students and faculty at the Yale Divinity School Monday afternoon about the phenomenon of mass incarceration in the United States, which she described as a legalized form of racial discrimination. Because African-Americans make up a large percentage of America’s prison population, Alexander said millions of African-Americans nationwide are deprived of basic human rights to housing and employment, adding that the prisoners have fallen victim to the kind of racial discrimination that existed at the time of Jim Crow.

“We have not ended racial caste in America, we have merely redesigned it,” she said. “This is a system that has literally turned back the clock on racial progress in the U.S.”

Alexander said a series of American government campaigns to curb the illegal drug trade, commonly referred to as the war on drugs, is causing an unprecedented number of incarcerations, especially of people of color. More than 45 million people have been “swept into the system” for drug offenses, Alexander said, adding that the number of people currently incarcerated for drug offenses surpasses the number of people incarcerated for any one reason in 1980.

Continue reading “Civil Rights Lawyer Michelle Alexander Speaks Against Mass Incarceration: the “New Jim Crow””