There is hardly a struggle aimed at upholding and extending the rights embedded in the U.S. Constitution in which the Center for Constitutional Rights has not played a central role. Whether defending the rights of black people in the South, opponents of the war in Vietnam, and victims of torture worldwide, or fighting illegal actions of the U.S. government, the CCR has stood ready to take on all comers, regardless of their power and wealth. When the United States declared that the Constitution did not apply to detainees at Guantánamo, the CCR waded fearlessly into battle, its Legal Director declaring that “My job is to defend the Constitution from its enemies. Its main enemies right now are the Justice Department and the White House.”
In this first-ever comprehensive history of one of the most important legal organizations in the United States, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Albert Ruben shows us exactly what it means to defend the Constitution. He examines the innovative tactics of the CCR, the ways in which a radical organization is built and nurtured, and the impact that the CCR has had on our very conception of the law. This book is a must-read not only for lawyers, but for all the rest of us who may one day find our rights in jeopardy.
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From the civil rights era to today’s battles over torture and imprisonment at Guantánamo Bay, the Center for Constitutional Rights has fought—and continues to fight—for the rights of the powerless and the oppressed, against insuperable odds. Albert Ruben’s history of CCR brings these struggles to life, from the founding of this scrappy people’s law firm in the 1960s to its vital role at the forefront of today’s crucial fights against injustice. Throughout, CCR lost none of its fighting spirit, audacity, courage, and politics. If you want to understand how a progressive organization can survive for decades, take on a hostile government, and remain honest to its values, read this book.
The Center for Constitutional Rights has played a leading role in some of the most significant courtroom battles of the last half-century, defending rights critical to us all. Here, finally, is a book that relates their important history and reminds us why it matters.
This lively and highly-informed account of the Center for Constitutional Rights will inspire anyone devoted to the defense of civil liberties and the promotion of social justice. Albert Ruben tells a great story, and this is one we need to hear now more than ever.
American Civil Liberties Union
Albert Ruben’s chronicle of CCR’s origins and work is compelling and valuable. The values, lives, and work of CCR’s founders have much to teach us, and CCR’s continued leadership in the struggle for human rights inspires us. Al has been involved in these issues for decades, and his book brings a unique perspective.
Duke Law School & Washington College of Law