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Black lawyers led Black struggle

Jr. | , Alton H. Maddox | 4/12/2011, 4:34 p.m.

This Wednesday, May 21, will be the 18th year that New York has prevented me from providing pro bono legal representation to the Black community. Malcolm X's birthday is May 19. In 1990, Malcolm X's birthday was on a Saturday. The Brooklyn Appeals Court had to wait until Monday, May 21, 1990, to suspend me illegally.

Since the 1850s, every Black lawyer in New York who has fought police terrorism and racial injustice has been shown the exit door. The list is legion and includes Thomas McCants Stewart, John T. Atkins, Rufus Perry, Benjamin J. Davis, Jr., Paul Zuber and Clarence Jones.

In a republican form of government, a free people must be able to secure effective assistance of counsel as guaranteed under the Sixth Amendment. The operative word is a "free people." They are, unconditionally, entitled to court access and due process. See also the Civil Rights Act of 1866.

Effective representation of Blacks is still foreign to the criminal justice system and risky for an attorney. In the Central Park jogger case, for example, every Black lawyer, who appeared to defend a Black defendant for allegedly raping a white woman, was disciplined.

Three of those lawyers were disbarred. The other lawyer was suspended and he has since been reinstated to the practice of law. His appearance in the case was brief. New York's judicial philosophy on interracial rape mirrors the philosophy in Georgia. All bets are off.

Will Anthony Ricco and Paul Martin be disbarred for representing the police assassins in Sean Bell et al? Not a chance! Instead, they will be serenaded by bar associations and police groups for defending white supremacy. This is the new paradigm for Black lawyers.

To be sure, these police officers had a right to counsel but these Black attorneys had no obligation to provide it under the Sixth Amendment. Otherwise, the Thirteenth Amendment would be threatened. Black lawyers must honor Charles Hamilton Houston. He said they will either be "social engineers" or "social parasites."

Since 1842 and until the present time, Black attorneys have refused to be used by white supremacists. Robert Morris, Sr. was the first civil rights lawyer in the United States. He initiated the landmark case, Robert v. City of Boston, decided in 1848. The result in Brown v. Board of Education was sought in Roberts v. City of Boston.

Morris also agreed to represent Shadrack, a fugitive, under the Fugitive Slave Law. During his pro bono representation of Shadrack, Morris planned Shadrack's successful escape from the federal courthouse. Shadrack's next stop was Canada.

Pres. Millard Fillmore ordered the federal government to prosecute Morris for treason and conspiracy. After two trials, Morris was acquitted. He vowed to continue aiding Blacks who were victimized by the Fugitive Slave Law.

History has been unkind to Black attorneys. Many sacrificial efforts can be attributed to them. The rape case of Ed Johnson, in Chattanooga, Tenn., is an example. With white representation, Johnson was convicted of raping a white woman in 1906. The local judge and the prosecutor orchestrated the kangaroo trial.