Norman S. Zalkind

LCDC, 1964
65a Atlantic Avenue
Boston, MA 02110
Phone: 617-742-6020

The Lawyers Constitutional Defense Committee, 1964 in Louisiana and Mississippi.

I was a 25-year-old lawyer, having my first experience with any major movements for social change. It triggered my whole life's work and career, although I am now much more a traditional criminal defense lawyer than I was in the 60's and 70's.

My main experience was in Mississippi working with 130 defendants who were arrested in Pascagoula and I worked on removing these cases to the Federal Court in Jackson. I also worked on cases in the New Orleans area involving individuals as opposed to large groups. Among the many other matters on which I worked in the state, I was also a lawyer-witness at the funerals of James Chaney and Michael Schwerner, two individuals who fought tirelessly for civil rights.

This experience really was the beginning of a marker for me in my legal career and after Mississippi, I became an anti-war lawyer and represented literally hundreds of students in various mass-arrests at the universities and public places in the Boston area, including the Harvard University takeover, in which we represented 180 defendants and after winning the first trial, where there were 20 acquittals, the cases of the other defendants were dismissed. We also had takeover cases at Boston University, the welfare office in Dorchester, Mass, MIT and various mass demonstrations.

I also have experience representing the Weathermen, SDS and mass arrests over Cambodia and draft protests, including an arrest in Newton, Mass., involving more than 100 defendants. I also represented the Black Panthers and had many jury trials in which we were successful.

These cases led to other movement cases, such as the Wounded Knee case in the 70's in Nebraska, in which I represented a defendant with an acquittal for the uprising in South Dakota. I also had a case against the State of Massachusetts regarding Walpole State Prison, our maximum security state prison at the time, and we were able to close one of the sections of the prison because it was unfit for human habitation.

These cases led me into my career in a more conventional way which involved representing individuals charged with criminal offenses ranging in severity, including about 60 first degree murder cases in which I tried more than half. My acquittal rate in jury trials has been more than 60 percent found not guilty or verdicts that were reduced significantly. People in my generation were very fortunate to become defense lawyers in the 60's and 70's. It was exciting and immensely interesting. Money was not the paramount driving force behind our lives. I would have advised anybody at the time that this was just the best career one could ever have.

I have more doubts now with the federal rules and guidelines that make practicing law in the federal courts feel similar to practicing accounting. Defense lawyers have limited options and defendants face harsh sentences. And now, state courts are starting to follow the federal court model. I still like to come to work everyday. I live for that call that will send me somewhere into the action and doing what's part of a higher calling than just lifes daily challenges. My energy is now put into very traditional criminal cases, including white collar crime, drugs, homicides, Medicaid fraud, and others, but I certainly miss the 60's and 70s.

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