On Saturday, March 24, 2007, the Bay Area Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild (NLGSF) honored Dennis Cunningham with our Spirit of Justice Award at the 27th Annual NLGSF Testimonial Dinner.
A gifted lawyer and dedicated Guild activist, Cunningham was inspired by the emerging civil rights movement when he began his legal career in the 1960s. Admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1967, Dennis cut his teeth defending protesters arrested in riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Democratic National Convention in 1968.
Most well known for his masterful work on the civil rights suit against the FBI for the false arrest and media smear of Earth First! activists Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney, after their car was firebombed in 1990. The case did not go to trial until 2002, but the dedicated legal team persevered to obtain a unanimous, multi-million dollar jury verdict for compensatory and punitive damages.
For nearly 40 years in Chicago and the Bay Area, Dennis has been a stalwart advocate, particularly for movement activists and victims of police misconduct. He has helped represent protesters in mass arrests at the 1984 Democratic Party convention, anti-nuke actions, anti-apartheid demonstrations in Berkeley and San Francisco, the police sweep of Castro Street in 1987, Central American solidarity actions in the 1980s, the Rodney King verdict protests in 1992, demonstrations by Food not Bombs, ActUp, Religious Witness with the Homeless and countless others.
"Dennis Cunningham is an inspiration to a whole generation of radical lawyers. He sues the FBI, the police, the prison system-and WINS!" said NLGSF President Hunter Pyle. "And through it all he is the coolest of cats. No one is more deserving of the Champion of Justice award than Dennis."