The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) was founded in 1937 as the country's first racially-integrated bar association of progressive lawyers and jurists who believed that they had a major role to play in the reconstruction of legal values to emphasize human rights over property rights. The Guild is the oldest and most extensive network of public interest and human rights activists working within the legal system. We work tirelessly towards our mission of uniting lawyers, law students, legal workers and jailhouse lawyers to function as an effective 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, LGBTQ people, farmers, people with disabilities and people of color, 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.
The Guild Los Angeles has four primary programmatic areas to fulfill our mission:
Amplifying the voices of the movement.
We believe in actions being movement and grassroots led, and that we utilize our skills and resources to support the movement. Our Programmatic Committees and Coalition memberships are the primary ways we further this programmatic area.
Resources and Education.
We provide educational materials and host events on the social and economic justice movement and being lawyers for change. We conduct CLEs and Student Retreats to educate our membership on being effective lawyers and advocates for the movement. Our popular Lawyer’s Guild radio show on KPFK disseminates information of the movement to the general public.
Observing and Protecting.
This is where we put our skills as lawyers to work, either on individual cases or in arenas where people are not usually represented, like observing protest actions and immigration proceedings. Our Homeless Citation Clinic and Street Vendor Citation Clinic are special projects of this area.
Connecting lawyers and legal workers for change.
A major purpose of the guild is creating an association of like-minded committed lawyers and legal workers, and to promote the interests of the group in serving the movement. We encourage our membership to join a Guild committee or join our legal observer team, we host special events such as our Annual Dinner, Winter Awards Dinner, and Student Mixer to encourage the active networking of our membership. We also support student law school chapters.
Over the past 70+ years, the Los Angeles Chapter of the Lawyers Guild has been involved in many high- profile political and legal battles. To cite but a few:
* We represented the 17 Mexican American defendants in the infamous and racist Sleeping Lagoon murder trial in 1942.
* We defended the Hollywood Ten, Hollywood writers and directors called before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee in 1949, during the McCarthy witchhunt/red scare era.
* California Summer 1994. Inspired by our work thirty years earlier in the South on behalf of the civil rights movement, this L.A. Chapter project brought nearly 200 lawyers and law students to Los Angeles, San Francisco and elsewhere in California to volunteer with groups fighting for affirmative action, immigrants rights, against police brutality and on behalf of other progressive causes.
* The L.A. Chapter was the only legal defense organization in town that supported and demanded a fair trial for those falsely accused of beating Reginald Denny in the course of the 1992 racial uprising in L.A.
* During the 2000 Democratic Party National Convention in Los Angeles, hundreds of innocent protesters, as well as many Guild legal observers, were brutalized by the LAPD, being struck with truncheons and rubber bullets during otherwise peaceful protests. Initially, our Chapter went to court to secure the right of the protest rallies to take place immediately across from the convention hall. We then provided legal observers for all of the marches and rallies, and in the wake of the massive police brutality during the protests, ultimately sued the City for millions of dollars and affirmative relief, and won!
* After the LAPD engaged in massive acts of brutality against pro-immigrant rights protesters in Mac Arthur Park in 2007, we sued the City and again secured a huge settlement.
* In 2014, we initially secured the use of the lawn at City Hall for the Occupy Movement in L.A.; monitored and provided legal counsel to Occupy LA during its entire time in operation; and, defended the hundreds arrested when the Occupy LA encampment was finally broken up.
* In General: Along the way we’ve secured permits for, and legally monitored, more political protests than we can quickly count;
defended a great many of those arrested in such protests;
won victories for the Car Wash Workers and Loncheros;
defended in the streets and in the courts the DREAMERS movement, and secured permits for, and defended, the workers and immigrants rights marches that take place every May Day in L.A.;
are fighting against efforts to silence dissent on the campuses of the University of California around the issue of Israel’s actions against the Palestinian people;
created the Bill Smith Military Resistance Project through which we forced the L.A. School Board to change its policy regarding how it treats the results of Army administered aptitude tests, and have provided information to countless numbers of high school students on the lies military recruiters tell;
forced the police department of the City of L.A. to reform its seizure and impound policy with respect to cars driven by immigrants without valid California drivers licenses;
defended those in Los Angeles who have protested various killings of black youth by police around the country;
hosted periodic MCLEs on issues of interest to public interest lawyers;
currently defending the thousands of Street Cart Vendors who, in the face of persistent harassment by the police and the wrongful confiscation of their property, are seeking legalization;
have created an Immigration Court Watch Program that monitors and reports on the great many due process abuses experienced by immigrants in Immigration Court proceedings;
are fighting for the rights of the homeless on multiple fronts; and,
for the past 26 years have hosted The Lawyers Guild Show, a weekly public affairs show heard each Thursday from 3:004:00 p.m. on KPFK, 90.7 FM.s about the NLG followed by NLG-LA facts.