Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute was founded by Ann Fagan Ginger because she thought that effective, innovative legal research, writing, and courtroom strategies should be shared among all lawyers and clients in the constitutional law fields of civil liberties, due process, and civil rights.
In 1964 she described her idea to the great civil libertarian Alexander Meiklejohn, who gave his permission for the use of his name. Herewith, a chronology that traces MCLI’s growth and development:
Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Library opened the door of its sturdy cement-block building in Berkeley in 1965. Its collection included the best legal “briefs” and transcripts and motions in cases reported in the Civil Liberties Docket since 1955. Since “legal research” is another name for plagiarizing, these materials could be a gold mine for a busy lawyer in Duluth just by changing the name of the state and the case where they had been used successfully by their author in New York (who had probably picked them up from an earlier case).
In 1965, Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Library officially incorporated as a California nonprofit institution with a Board of Directors: Ann Fagan Ginger, I. Michael Heyman, and Marshall W. Krause. Ann Rand, retired librarian for the International Longshoremen’s and Warehouseman’s Union, became the first of innumerable, invaluable volunteers. Law students active in the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley came on Work Study grants to pitch in.
The phone began to ring! The Civil Rights Movement wanted the best legal points for integration in the South, North and West. Activists wanted the best legal arguments against the Vietnam War. Unions and the Left wanted new reasons to end the blacklists and prosecutions of Reds and progressives.
Soon Meiklejohn became an Institute and started producing books, sending out speakers, and presenting testimony in Congress, while continuing to collect archival material. In 1966, the first seven Work-Study students came to work and the Law Students Civil Rights Research Council sent a student.
In the late sixties, Meiklejohn moved from Civil Rights & Liberties to the United Nations Human Rights to cover all the rights about which Meiklejohn is concerned. In 1973, we called our newest book “HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS AND PERIODICALS DIRECTORY” and started classifying cases by using the human rights language of the U.N. (and we convinced the Library of Congress to follow our lead in this classification.)
MCLI staff was most often called upon to provide information about: leafleting on military bases; draft/registration; in-service conscientious objectors; Nuremberg Principles’ application to Calley case; war crimes trials materials for library exhibit; Equal Rights Amendment; unpaid maternity leave; roles of juries in political trials; pro se defendants in San Francisco State trials; newsman’s privilege to conceal identity among sources; client’s right to see welfare files.
Meiklejohn’s first books:
- CIVIL LIBERTIES DOCKET 1968–1969. Digests of unreported and reported cases on civil liberties, due process, civil rights, law of the poor (1970)
- The MCLI Docket followed in the great traditions of the Law and Freedom Bulletin of the American Civil Liberties Union (1920–1931), the International Juridical Association Bulletin (1931–1942), and the National Lawyers Guild Review—Recent Items (1942–1946)—all in MCLI archives.
- HUMAN RIGHTS CASEFINDER: The Warren Court Era 1953–1969. Where to find reports of federal and state cases (1969)
- ANGELA DAVIS CASE COLLECTION. Annotated procedural guide and index to all that creative pretrial and jury selection material in California v. Davis (with Oceana Pubs)(1974)
- PENTAGON PAPERS TRIAL: Index-Catalog to defense attacks on FBI practices in United States v. Ellsberg and Russo (1975)
- Early articles, periodicals, speeches: Meiklejohn Library Acquisitions, Vols. I–IV, 12/68–11/72 (1968) “The Rights of the People and the Role of Librarians,” Library Trends (1970)
- “Meiklejohn Library Suggests New Role for Librarians,” War on Poverty Institute, Univ. of Wisconsin Library School (1970) “The Police, the Libraries, and the Community: Friends or Foes,” Speech to California Library Association (1972) “Meiklejohn Institute: Resource Center for Academic Freedom,” Social Education, Nat’l. Cncl. for the Social Studies (1975)
- Symposium: 10th Anniversary Celebration & Journal: Judge Avakian on Jury Trial: Guardian of Liberty; Leonard Boudin on Violence in the U.S.
- Testimony: Joint Committee on Organization of Congress, 89th Cong.: Need for Study of Constitutional Litigation; Constitutional Amendment on Education (1965) California State Assembly Committee, On Working: Women in the Labor Force (1975)
More students kept coming to work, producing more articles, and calendars of cases and lawyers. We gave more testimony, attended some Central and South American lawyers’ conferences, and filed amicus briefs for affirmative action and workers’ rights.
Times were changing. We decided to celebrate the end of the recent cold past. For our 15th anniversary in 1980, we invited everybody to “Are you now or have you ever been …?” on “Some subversive evening,” with sessions on how Truman/McCarthyism had affected our families, our jobs, our unions, our land, and the law. (California Council for the Humanities helped with funding.)
We were so successful we put on a string of symposiums, attended by one and all, several at old Finn Hall, and for each we published a journal:
- The KKK, Nazis, Moral Majority and New Right – 1981
- The Right to Earn a Living in the United States – 1982
- Lift Every Voice for Civil Rights – 1983
- Free Speech Movement Anniversary – 1984
- Peace and Twenty – 1985
Meiklejohn’s new books: We kept on producing books about the law, moving beyond civil rights and liberties and due process of law, to encompass human rights law, as Frank Newman had long been preaching.
- HUMAN RIGHTS DOCKET U.S. 1979. Digests of 1,600 human rights cases on civil liberties, due process, equal protection, economic & social rights, national & international rights. (1979)
- THE FORD HU.N.GER MARCH by Maurice Sugar. Step-by-step on why the workers and the unemployed marched to Dearborn March 7, 1932, and who shot four men dead. (1980) see Order Form
- ALEXANDER MEIKLEJOHN: TEACHER OF FREEDOM by Cynthia Stokes Brown. Meiklejohn’s life, and major thoughts. (1981) see Order Form
- Testimony: Implementation of Helsinki Accords, 96th Cong.
In 1979–80, Meiklejohn received a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission in Washington to make an inventory of the records (and periodicals) at Meiklejohn of the National Lawyers Guild (1936–76) and The Legal Struggle to Abolish the House Committee on UnAmerican Activities (1963–1973). Later the papers of the Radical Elders Oral History Project, partially transcribed, and much other (unsorted) material, came to MCLI.
MCLI began presenting expert testimony on the new field we pioneered—peace law. We helped get at least one acquittal in Utah, and one community service sentence (served at Meiklejohn). The Gulf War set us quickly on PeaceNet with the first legal analysis of “Blood, Oil and the Law re U.S. Troops in Saudi Arabia.”
This led to PEACE LAW PACKETS from First Amendment Defense-State to Socially-Responsible Cities, containing the best materials from the DOCKET collection, to use in the next case. see Order form
Then MCLI had to return to old themes—the need for affirmative action, the legal rights of immigrants, and the right to earn a living. And MCLI especially stressed the need to work at every level, simultaneously—locally, in the Bay Area, in every state and region, in Washington, and in the U.N. (in New York, Geneva, Beijing and …)
Meiklejohn and its effervescent crops of interns built books and symposia:
- Taking Hold of the Budget – 1986
- Lies, Damn Lies and Distortions – 1987
- The Constitutional Crisis in the United States – 1988
- United States v. Oliver North – 1990
- Making Peace Work for Our Lives – 1989
Then we had to take on the Crisis in Schools Tours and put on Right to Education – 1991.
Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute’s new books:
- THE COLD WAR AGAINST LABOR. A rich anthology by union organizers and rank-and-file members in many industries describing their struggle against employers and McCarthyites. (2 vols. out of the 1980 “Are You Now” Symposium, 1987)
- PEACE LAW ALMANAC. The U.N. Charter, U.S. Constitution, Nuremberg Principles, U.S. Army Field Manual, court opinions in U.S. v. Lt. Calley and Spock v. United States, and much more. (1991)
In 1989, MCLI conducted Peace Law Training Sessions at UC Berkeley and at the Am. Assn. for Advancement of Science, Pacific Division in Chico, CA, and presented an MCLI petition on “Peace Law and Colonialism” to the 4th Committee of the General Assembly of U.N.
In 1991, MCLI proposed Berkeley City Council Resolution: Responsibilities of the City in View of the War in Iraq, which was adopted.
MCLI’s “The New U.S. Criminal Statute” was reprinted by DataCenter in The Workbook.
Many lawyers, activists, and educators from several African nations, Moldova, Turkey, Japan, and other regions have visited Meiklejohn through the United States Agency for International Development, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers, and the International Centre for Trade Union Rights. Meiklejohn staff have joined the boards of many NGOs and international and Western hemisphere bar associations, all of which work on issues on which the U.N. has prepared treaties.
Meiklejohn’s new booklets:
We finished the decade by celebrating
- “30 * 50 * 70”—30 years of MCLI
- 50 years of the United Nations
- 70 years of Ann Ginger with Jessica Mitford discoursing on “Sex and the First Amendment.”
Our books were so sought after we turned them into looseleaf services, produced by energetic clippers, interns, inputters. See Publications.
- HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS & PERIODICALS DIRECTORY. A biennial list of descriptions of civil liberties, environmental, and peace groups, their publications, and their internships. (8th ed. 1996)
- HUMAN RIGHTS AND PEACE LAW DOCKET: 1945–1993. The first law reporter providing detailed descriptions of cases in courts, legislatures, and administrative agencies in the United States, 38 other nations, and the International Court of Justice in which parties raised issues under the U.N. Charter, Nuremberg Principles, and other peace law. (5th ed. 1995)
MCLI, the City of Berkeley, and other organizations sponsored a performance of The Human Rights Cantata, the musical setting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Nuremberg Principles, and excerpts from the U.N. Charter, by James F. Wood in 1997.
In 1998, MCLI presented BUILDING DEMOCRACY IN THE AFTERMATH OF THE COLD WAR: LESSONS FROM THE EVENTS & THE SURVIVORS, dedicated to the memory of Bella Abzug. The weekend began with a Reunion of victims and veterans of the Cold War and ended with the presentation of Honorable Discharges from the Cold War and Viet Nam War and Registration Papers for the 21st century.
In 2000, MCLI is seeking knowelegable volunteers to turn the conference audiotapes into several radio programs or CDs.
Ann Ginger’s book, NUCLEAR WEAPONS ARE ILLEGAL: The Historic Opinion of the World Court and how it will be enforced (Apex Press) has led to numerous think-and-action pieces by MCLI on nuclear weapons issues—at Lawrence Livermore and Berkeley Laboratories and in use of depleted uranium in Kosovo.
In 1999, MCLI entered into an agreement with the India Centre for Human Rights and the Law, a non-profit organization situated in Bombay, India housed in the Socio-Legal Information Centre, “believing that peace and human rights are global issues which ought to be resolved through increased cooperation between organizations.” The two organizations will cooperate on matters of human rights and peace, exchange publications, organize visits and lecture tours, collaborate in presentation of material to the organs and agencies of the U.N., and in other activities.
During the U.S./NATO bombing of Kosovo and Serbia, MCLI prepared numerous reports on the legal issues and relevant U.N. law and treaties, and participated in countless coalitions and teach-ins. MCLI presented U.N. charter law on public radio stations in Conn., Mass., Ohio, and 4 in Calif.
The famous MCLI archives were transfered to the University of California Bancroft Collection, including the National Lawyers Guild collection, in the summer of 1999. The Labadie Collection at the University of Michigan has also received the American Committee for Protection of Foreign Born papers and the case of William Heikkila.
On April 15, 1999, the Bay Area Coalition for Civil Rights sent a long communication to Bill Lockyer, California Attorney General elected in Nov. 1998 on Civil Rights Enforcement. Pages 10–11 of the memo described MCLI’s efforts to cause state officials to join the work of making the reports required under the three human rights treaties recently ratified by the U.S. as one step in implementing Pres. Clinton’s Executive Order 13107.
In January, 2000, MCLI began collecting information to answer the questionnaire on U.S. efforts to end racism and racial violence and submit it to the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights for the 2001 U.N. Conference on Racism in South Africa.