Clark, William Ramsey

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"It is the highest duty of every individual on this planet to see that his or her governmental officials are accountable for their acts."
William Clark

Ramsey Clark is a unique attorney whose list of clients reads like a who's who of political underdogs. After serving as assistant attorney general, deputy attorney general, and finally attorney general of the United States in the 1950s and 1960s, he returned to private practice with a strong interest in international law and human rights. His liberal views on crime, particularly crime against the U.S. government, have led him to represent a number of individuals and groups that are notably disliked or feared by the U.S. public.

William Ramsey Clark was born December 18, 1927, in Dallas, Texas, to tom c. clark and Mary Ramsey Clark. He received his bachelor of arts degree from the University of Texas in 1949 and his master of arts and doctor of jurisprudence degrees from the University of Chicago in 1950. After being admitted to the Texas bar in 1951, he practiced law in Dallas for ten years. In 1961 he was appointed assistant attorney general in the U.S. department of justice. He served in that capacity until 1965 when he was made deputy attorney general. In 1967, President lyndon b. johnson appointed him attorney general, a position he held until 1969.

Clark was politically well connected. His father had served as U.S. attorney general from 1945 to 1949 under President harry s. truman and as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1949 to 1967. President Johnson was not happy with Clark's performance as attorney general. Clark was criticized for being too soft on crime in the United States as well as too soft on defense. Clark was one of many 1960s-era proponents of a new approach to solving the crime problem—focusing on education and rehabilitation rather than punishment—and his influence extended into the 1990s.

In 1968, after Congress passed the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act (Pub. L. No. 90-351, 82 Stat. 197 [June 19, 1968]) to overturn miranda v. arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S. Ct. 1602, 16 L. Ed. 2d 694 (1966), Clark disagreed with the act and refused to apply it, a precedent that all U.S. attorneys general have followed since. The Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act, which replaced Miranda's flat prohibition on the use of confessions obtained illegally, employed a five-part test for judges to decide whether a confession was voluntary (18 U.S.C.A. § 3501[b]). However, in Dickerson v. U.S., 530 U.S. 428, 120 S.Ct 2326, 147 L.Ed.2d 405 (U.S. 2000), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Miranda is a constitutional decision, and thus it may not be in effect overruled by an Act of Congress, specifically including 18 USCA 3501. Congress may not legislatively supercede Supreme Court decisions interpreting and applying the Constitution, the Court concluded, and any attempt to do so would thus be invalid.

Under Clark the justice department was considerably more liberal than it was under later leaders. The department opposed capital punishment, even in an incident where two Immigration and Naturalization Service agents were killed. While with the Justice Department, Clark brought future secretary of state Warren M. Christopher in to serve as deputy attorney general. Under Clark's authority, Christopher shepherded the 1968 civil rights act (Pub. L. No. 90-284, 82 Stat. 73-92 [Apr. 11, 1968]) through Congress. The passage of the Civil Rights Act was a notable accomplishment because the United States was experiencing considerable civil strife and social turmoil and Congress did not want to appear soft on crime.

After exiting the attorney general post in 1969, Clark moved to New York City to practice law, taking on clients in matters of international law and human rights, particularly those with claims against the U.S. government—a unique position for a former attorney general. In particular, Clark has specialized in representing Middle Eastern groups and individuals, including the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Clark successfully represented the PLO in an action brought by the U.S. government to close the PLO's Permanent Observer Mission at the united nations (United States v. PLO, 695 F. Supp. 1456 [S.D.N.Y. 1988]). Clark also represented the PLO in a suit brought by the survivors of Leon Klinghoffer, who was killed in

1985 while aboard the hijacked Achille Lauro (Klinghoffer v. SNC Achille Lauro, 816 F. Supp. 930 [S.D.N.Y. 1993]).

Clark has been unafraid to represent clients whose alleged crimes have angered and outraged U.S. citizens and foreigners alike, including two men who fought extradition to Israel: Abu Eain, accused by the Israeli government of a 1979 bombing that killed two in Tiberias, Israel (Eain v. Wilkes, 641 F.2d 504 [7th Cir. 1981]), and Mahmoud El-Abed Ahmad, accused of a 1986 terrorist attack on an Israeli bus in the West Bank (Ahmad v. Wigen, 910 F.2d 1063 [2d Cir. 1990]). To protest the United States' 1986 air strike against Libya, Clark brought suit against the United States and the United Kingdom on behalf of 55 Libyans seeking damages for injuries, death, and property loss sustained in the air strike. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia fined Clark for filing a frivolous lawsuit, one for which there was no hope whatsoever of success (Saltany v. Regan, 886 F.2d 438 [D.C. Cir. 1989]). Sheik Omar Ahmad Ali Abdel Rahman, a fundamentalist Muslim cleric who was accused of conspiracy to wage a war of terrorism in the United States, also had Clark at his side in proceedings related to his involvement in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

Clark's practice has also included cases that arose out of wartime acts. He represented Radovan Karadzic, leader of the Bosnian Serbs, who was accused of permitting his soldiers to rape thousands of Muslim women in Bosnian detention camps (Doe v. Karadzic, 866 F. Supp. 734 [S.D.N.Y. 1994]); Jack (Jakob) Reimer, an instructor at a world war ii German SS camp in Poland who was accused of war crimes for participation in the murder of more than 50 Jewish civilians in the winter of 1941–42; and Bernard Coard and Phyllis Coard, former officials of the Grenadian government who were sentenced to death for murdering Prime Minister Maurice Bishop and his followers in the coup that preceded the U.S. invasion in 1983 (Petition for Provisional and Permanent Relief against Death Penalties and Sentences of Imprisonment, 137 Cong. Rec. H6305, 102d Cong., 1st Sess. [Aug. 1, 1991]). Clark also counted as one of his clients Captain Lawrence P. Rockwood who was court-martialed for dereliction of duty for leaving his army post in September 1994 to investigate human rights abuses in a Haitian prison.

Clark has represented clients who were arrested while engaging in acts of civil disobedience including a group of people who protested at a General Electric plant in Pennsylvania where parts of Minuteman nuclear missiles were manufactured (Commonwealth v. Berrigan, 369 Pa. Super. 145, 535 A.2d 91 [1987]).

Clark's clients have included U.S. citizens who fought the U.S. government in court for reasons other than civil disobedience: Vander Beatty, a former New York state senator convicted of conspiracy and forgery in an election scandal (Beatty v. Snow, 588 F. Supp. 809 [S.D.N.Y. 1984]); followers of the Branch Davidians who sued federal authorities over the 1993

branch davidian raid in Waco, Texas; and Lyndon LaRouche, who was convicted of mail fraud and conspiracy to defraud the internal revenue service in connection with fund-raising efforts (United States v. LaRouche, 896 F.2d

815 [4th Cir. 1990], aff'd, 4 F.3d 987, No. 92-6701, 1993 WL 358525 [4th Cir. Sept. 13, 1993]).

One notable group of Clark's clients consisted of some attorneys and a judge who were sanctioned for their conduct in court. This group included New York attorney Arthur V. Graseck Jr., who was ordered by a federal court to pay his opponent's attorney's fees for pursuing frivolous claims, under 28 U.S.C.A. § 1927 and rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Oliveri v. Thompson, 803 F.2d 1265 [2d Cir. 1986]; California-based civil rights attorney Stephen Yagman, who was suspended from the

practice of law for criticizing a federal district judge (Yagman v. Republic Insurance, 987 F.2d 622 [9th Cir. 1993]; Standing Committee on Discipline v. Yagman, 856 F. Supp. 1395 [C.D. Cal. 1994]); and U.S. district judge Miles Lord, who presided over the Dalkon Shield class action litigation and was accused of prejudicial administration of justice (In re Miles Lord, NOS. JCP 84-001 and JCP 84-002 [8th Cir. Judicial Council 1984] (unreported order); Gardinier v. Robins, 747 F.2d 1180 [8th Cir. 1984]).

Throughout the 1990s and beyond, Clark has been unwavering in his support of Leonard Peltier, an american indian movement leader who was convicted of killing two federal bureau of investigation agents in a siege on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in 1975, in his quest for a new trial (United States v. Peltier, 585 F.2d 314 [8th Cir. 1978], aff'd, Peltier v. Henman, 997 F.2d 461 [8th Cir. 1993]).

In 1990, Clark organized the Coalition to Stop U.S. Intervention in the Middle East. He has served as spokesman for a U.S. group of supporters of Fidel Castro and has accused the media of presenting a one-sided view of Cuba because it has focused on the dictatorship rather than on U.S. efforts to undermine the Cuban Revolution. In 1993, he brought U.S. doctors, and with them eight tons of medicines and vitamins, to Cuba to help the population overcome shortages of medicines and medical care that have occurred since the fall of the Soviet Union.

In the early 1990s, as a reaction to what he characterized as war crimes committed by the U.S. government against Iraqi civilians during the first Persian Gulf war, Clark conducted a war-crimes tribunal in which former president George H. W. Bush and Generals Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf were among those found guilty of committing war crimes. He also helped to found the International Action Center, which views its mission as providing information and resources to help people fight racism, U.S. corporate greed, and militarism.

Throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, Clark continued an ambitious agenda of speaking and writing about international and constitutional rights, civil rights, crime control, voting rights, and international affairs. He authored or coauthored numerous books, including Acts of Aggression: Policing Rogue States, coauthored with Noam Chomsky and Edward Said.

In early 2003, Clark drafted articles of impeachment against President george w. bush, Attorney General john ashcroft, and other administration officials for planning a preemptive strike against Iraq.

further readings

Clark, Ramsey. 1993. The Fire This Time: U.S. War Crimes in the Gulf. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press.

International Action Center. Available online at <> (accessed June 19, 2003).

Vote to Impeach. Available online at <> (accessed June 19, 2003).

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Clark, William Ramsey

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