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In 1966 several civil rights activists, including Arthur Kinoy and William Kuntsler, founded the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), originally called the Civil Rights Legal Defense Fund and later the Law Center for Constitutional Rights. The dearth of lawyers willing to take on controversial litigation led Kinoy and Kuntsler to create a permanent, privately funded center "dedicated to the creative use of law as a positive progressive force and the training of young lawyers."
The center has created numerous projects to deal with issues of special interest and, through its relatively informal structure, staff and volunteer attorneys work on issue areas of particular interest to them. In addition to ten staff attorneys, the center also relies heavily on volunteer staff and cooperating attorneys throughout the United States. Many of these volunteers are affiliated with law schools or other public interest law firms. Wendy Williams is on the faculty at the Georgetown University Law Center; Nadine Taub heads a women's rights litigation clinic at Rutgers; and Alvin Bronstein heads the ACLU's National Prison Project.*
This extensive network of attorneys and an annual operating budget of nearly $1 million has allowed the center to be an effective advocate for diverse causes. Preferring to file in federal court, it receives cases from movement groups, other attorneys at public interest firms, and civil rights lawyers. From the hundreds brought to its attention each year, the center selects cases according to their potential impact upon social change, people's rights, instances that involve govemment abuse of constitutional rights, and human rights. Its preferred areas of interest, however, are women's rights, civil rights, government misconduct, and the First Amendment. Among some of the major cases in which CCR attorneys have recently been involved are several challenges to the constitutionality of acts of the Reagan administration in providing aid to El Salvador and Nicaragua. CCR attorneys also have cooperated with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project's* staff to challenge the federal government's "squeal rule," a requirement that parents of female teenagers under 18 years of age be notified when prescription drugs are prescribed for birth control.
The center also has been involved in cases involving lesbian rights. In re B./., it worked with the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund* to seek the release of a 22-year-old who had been involuntarily committed to a mental hospital by her parents because she was a lesbian. One year later, a CCR cooperating attorney in Washington State v. Allery (1984) successfully argued that battered women's syndrome should be admitted at trial.
CCR attorneys frequently work cooperatively with, or file amicus curiae in support of, other groups including the American Civil Liberties Union,* the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Legal Defense Fund,* National Organization for Women* and the New York Civil Liberties Union, generally to expand upon a specific issue. For example, it filed an amicus brief in Boston Firefighter's Union, Local 718 v. Boston Chapter, NAACP arguing that the exclusion of blacks and other minorities from this kind of public employment is one of the unacceptable incidents that has survived slavery. Similarly, in Akron v. Akron Center for Reproductive Health (1983), the center filed an amicus on behalf of 17 national religious organizations, thus continuing the work it began as a sponsor of Harris v. McRae (1980). The center argued that the proposed ordinances violated the First Amendment by compelling women and doctors to "submit propaganda on the metaphysical question of when life begins."
Bottorff, S. (1986). "Legal Group Wins Kudos, Case Law, and Controversy," Los Angeles Daily Journal 196:1, November 4.