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63 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 1030 (1994-1995)
Race, Ethics, and the First Amendment: Should a Black Lawyer Represent the Ku Klux Klan

handle is hein.journals/gwlr63 and id is 1038 raw text is: Race, Ethics, and the First Amendment:
Should a Black Lawyer Represent the
Ku Klux Klan?
David B. Wilkins*
The headline in The New York Times read: A Klansman's Black Law-
yer, and a Principle.1 The black lawyer in question is Anthony Griffin, a
cooperating attorney in the Texas Chapter of the American Civil Liberties
Union (ACLU) and, until the events described in the Times article, the
General Counsel for the Port Arthur Branch of the National Association for
the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). In his former capacity,
Griffin agreed to represent Michael Lowe, the grand dragon of the Texas
Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK or Klan), against efforts by the Texas
Commission on Human Rights (Commission) to compel Lowe to turn over
the Klan's membership list. This action eventually cost Griffin his position
with the NAACP.2
The Times headline succinctly sums up the issues presented in this con-
troversial case. As the first clause suggests, Griffin's decision to represent
the Klan raises important questions about the relationship between personal
identity and professional role. Why would a black lawyer (particularly one
with such a demonstrated commitment to civil rights) agree to represent an
organization that has brutalized and intimidated African-Americans for more
than a century? The underlying facts of this case make this concern particu-
larly salient.
The Klan is engaged in a systematic campaign to terrorize the handful of
blacks who were moved into an all-white housing project in all-white Vidor,
Texas.3 This attempt to desegregate Vidor is in turn based on a federal
* Professor of Law and Director of the Program on the Legal Profession, Harvard Law
School. Special thanks to Paul Butler, Richard Epstein, Richard Fallon, John Nockleby, Susan
Koniak, Sanford Levinson, David Luban, Robert Gordon, Bernard Meltzer, Deborah Rhode,
Fred Schauer, Peter Margulies, Tracey Mears, Kathleen Sullivan, Cass Sunstein, and participants
at the University of Chicago and Harvard Law Schools faculty workshops for helpful comments
and criticisms on prior drafts. Tania Tetlow and Richard Kilbride provided able research
1 Sam H. Verhovek, A Klansman's Black Lawyer, and a Principle, N.Y. Times, Sept. 10,
1993, at B9.
2 Nat Hentoff, A Free-Speech Lawyer Fired by the NAACP, WASH. PosT, June 25, 1994, at
3 For a thorough account of the Klan's terror tactics, see Bruce Tomaso, Defending His
Defense. Black NAACP Attorney Draws Fire for Representing Klan Leader, DALLAS MoRNiro
NEws, Aug. 31, 1993, at 1A (reporting that hooded men knocked on the doors of black residents
telling them to get your nigger babies out of Vidor and walked through the halls threatening to
bum down the housing project). See also Only the Killers Were Colorblind, SACRAMENTo BEE,
Sept. 5, 1993, at A31 (quoting one of the blacks who attempted to integrate the Vidor project as
claiming that 'I've had people who drive by and tell me they're going home to get a rope and
August 1995 Vol. 63 No. 6


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