Michael Ratner (1943–2016) was one of America’s leading human rights lawyers. He worked for more than four decades at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) becoming first the Director of Litigation and then the President of what Alexander Cockburn called “a small band of tigerish people.” He was also the President of the National Lawyers Guild.
Ratner handled some of the most significant cases In American history. This book tells why and how he did it.
His last case, which he worked on until he died, was representing truth-telling whistleblower and now political prisoner Julian Assange, the editor of WikiLeaks.
Ratner “moved the bar” by organizing some 600 lawyers to successfully defend habeas corpus, that is, the ancient right of someone accused of a crime to have a lawyer and to be brought before a judge.
Michael had a piece of paper taped on the wall next to his desk at the CCR. It read:
4 key principles of being a radical lawyer:
1. Do not refuse to take a case just because it is long odds of winning in court.
2. Use cases to publicize a radical critique of US policy and to promote revolutionary transformation.
3. Combine legal work with political advocacy.
4. Love people.
Compelling and instructive, Moving the Bar is an indispensable manual for the next generation of activists and their lawyers.
“If you care as deeply and passionately as Michael Ratner, the suffering of the oppressed forces you to become a radical.” — Chris Hedges
“He was fearless. He was outraged by outrageous things. He was inventive when the law stopped short of providing justice. And working with Michael let you experience the exhilaration of taking the law to places where it had never been.” — Peter Weiss, former vice-president of the Center for Constitutional Rights
“Driven by love and compassion, Michael Ratner was the most tenacious and brilliant of lawyers” — Amy Goodman
“A fascinating read that covers much radical U.S. history.” —Ajamu Baraka
“The memoir of a great constitutional lawyer” — featured on Radio Woodstock
“A vivid memoir of a storied attorney” — reviewed in the Progressive
“Reading Michael Ratner’s Moving the Bar shows just how unusual he was in the crowded room of radical lawyers… especially when other radical lawyers fell by the wayside, and opted for money, fame and notoriety.” — reviewed in CounterPunch
“An honest, poignant, sprawling, remarkable, and inspiring account” —reviewed in the LA Progressive
“As is clear from the memoir of one of [Julian Assange’s] attorneys, Michael Ratner, the ends have always justified the means for those demanding his global persecution.” — recommended by Chris Hedges on Scheerpost
“One of America’s foremost human rights lawyers” — The Guardian