The Attica Prison Civil Case

In September, 1991, twenty years after the massacre, the Attica civil trial began in Buffalo, New York. The trial team of Michael and Dennis, as well as Elizabeth Fink and Joe Heath, sought to hold the defendants liable to the entire class of Attica prisoners for the murderous attack, the brutal reprisals which followed the retaking of the prison, and the failure to provide medical care.  After a grueling four month trial, the jury returned a mixed verdict, holding one defendant liable to the class while deadlocking on other claims.  The trial was followed, several years later, by damages trials on behalf of prisoners who were victims of reprisals. Frank “Big Black” Smith, who had been tortured after the takeover, went to trial first, and the jury returned a  record verdict of $4 million. After a further appeal and a reversal the class cases were eventually settled in 2000 for a total of $12 million. While we considered this an insufficient amount given the outrageous nature of the State’s actions and the injuries suffered by the plaintiffs, we recognized that securing some recovery for the long-suffering prisoners, many of whom were now in poor health or had died, made the settlement the right thing to do.


Early Days
The Murder of Fred Hampton
Government Surveillance
Representing the Panthers in Downstate Illinois
Attica New York Prison Riots
The Fred Hampton Murder Trial
Prisoner Rights Work
Puerto Rican Independence Movement and the Puerto Rican Community
Fred Hampton Appeal
George Jones Street Files and False Imprisonment
Representing Demonstrators, Protestors, and Activists
Puerto Rico Work Continues
Police Brutality and Torture
Continuing to Represent Demonstrators and Activists
The Attica Prison Civil Case
Continuing Work in Solidarity With Puerto Rico
Fighting the Death Penalty
Sexual Abuse Litigation and Illegal Strip Search
Back to the Supreme Court
The 1996 Democratic Convention
Policy and Practice Cases
False Arrests and Convictions
Continuing to Defend Dissent
Continuing the Fight for Justice in the Chicago Police Torture Cases
Criminal Defense for Civil Rights Abuses
Jail Suicide
Opposing the Criminalization of the LGBTQ Community
People’s Law Office and The National Lawyers Guild