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Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives logo

Guide to the National Lawyers Guild Records TAM.191

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archive
Elmer Holmes Bobst Library
70 Washington Square South
2nd Floor
New York, NY 10012
(212) 998-2596

Tamiment Library and Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives

Collection processed by Part I - Keri A. Myers, 2004; Part II - Jan Hilley, 2006-2007.

This finding aid was produced using ArchivesSpace on January 07, 2021
Finding aid is written in English using Describing Archives: A Content Standard

 Edited by Maggie Schreiner for compliance with DACS and Tamiment Required Elements for Archival Description and to reflect the incorporation of nonprint materials Edited by Maggie Schreiner to reflect updated administrative information Edited by Heather Mulliner to reflect incorporation of 2014 accretion Edited by Heather Mulliner to reflect incorporation of 2015 accretion Edited by Heather Mulliner to reflect incorporation of oral history series. Edited by Nicole Greenhouse to reflect added archived websites and updated administrative information  , January 2014 , July 2014 , October 2014 , September 2016 , September 2017 , December 2020

Scope and Contents

Part 1 of this collection documents the founding, development and day-to-day administration of the National Lawyers Guild from 1937 to 1969. Materials include the correspondence, agenda and minutes of the Board of Directors, the National Executive Board and the NYC Chapter Executive Board. Correspondence and other records also document in the work of the Executive Officers and their relations with NLG staff in several regions. The positions of the Guild on issues of the day are documented in resolutions, press releases, mailings and reports to members. Part I of the collections also includes records from NLG committees, including the Committee on Academic Freedom, the Civil Liberties and Civil Rights Committees, the Constitutional Liberties Committee, the Criminal Law Committee, the Labor Law Committee, the Committee on Professional Problems, the Committee on Social Legislation and several others. Membership records include correspondence, membership lists and a large number of resignation letters from members when the Guild was under attack from the Attorney General. The NYC Chapter is well represented in this collection, and the Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and San Francisco chapters are also included. Materials pertaining to the Guild's conventions between 1937 and 1968 are included in Part I of this collection, including planning information, correspondence between board members, speeches made at conventions, and resolutions passed by the Guild. Records relating to other events, such as honoree dinners, theater parties and fundraising events are also included.

The Guild produced a number of publications, including the Lawyers Guild Review, the  New York Guild Lawyer,  Civil Liberties Docket, and the  Guild Lawyer. The records for these publications are included in this collection. The Guild's response to Congressional hearings, subversive activities bills, HUAC operations, political attacks on Guild itself and political matters related to civil rights is also documented, as well as legislative initiatives on which the Guild acted, or upon which it took a position. Case and general files include background material on cases handled by the Guild, or in which it had a role, including Eisler v. the U.S., the Smith Act trials, the Rosenberg Case and others. Most of the cases are on the federal level, but there is also a substantial amount of material documenting cases at the state level. Subject files include a wide variety of topics of interest to the Guild. Of special note is material on the House Un-American Activities Committee. Included are clippings files maintained by the New York office. Correspondence files consist mostly of correspondence between the officers of various chapters and the national presidents. Additional correspondence and subject files can be found in the Addendum to Part 1.

Part 2 of this collection consists of subsequent donations, including National Office records, NYC Chapter records and files related to NLG v. Attorney General. Records of the National Executive Board and National Executive committee include minutes and related files, a variety of materials from most of the NLG's national conventions from 1973-2003 and a wide range of general administrative and organizational files. The activities of the NLG, including formal committees, legal work and general files reflecting projects, campaigns, endorsements, delegations, conferences, Guild positions and areas of activism and advocacy are documented, in particular through a relatively large section of the papers of Arthur Kinoy. The interested of the NLG National Office are also represented in legal cases of interest and various subject files. Also included are publications and related correspondence of the National Lawyers Guild, as well as non-NLG publications that were contained within the National Office files, and publicity materials such as clippings. The NYC Chapter is represented in this collection through administrative records such as minutes of the chapter's Executive Committee; materials generated by administrative committees; correspondence; files on chapter events; files relating to finances and membership; publications and resource material; as well as a wide variety of material describing the chapter's programmatic activities and advocacy.

The bulk of this collection reflects the Rabinowitz, Boudin formal case file on the NLG v. AG suit, including briefs, depositions, discoveries, opinions, summary judgments, transcripts, correspondence and the settlement. Discovery materials reflect the massive amount of information the NLG was able to obtain from the Government during the course of this litigation. There is a small amount of supporting documentation for the various Discovery methods, as well as material focused on FOIA requests initiated by the NLG and by individual NLG members. The formal file of discovery documents and is followed by released government documents of the following types: National Lawyers Guild, as an overall organization; individual NLG members; informants; FBI Field Offices; specific FBI programs; specific NLG activities; and other government agencies. Also included are Privilege Logs. It should be noted that, within the various categories of released documents, a number of folders are labeled "See References." This indicates that the National Lawyers Guild, the Guild member, or the specific topic on the folder label is not the subject of the enclosed documents; however, while investigating someone or something else, the FBI made mention of the Guild or a related person/topic. The litigation forced the FBI to reveal the inclusion of the Guild or its members even when they were the victim of 'indirect' surveillance. There is also material related to attempts by the Government to obtain information from the National Lawyers Guild. In addition to the defendants' interrogatories and documents produced by the NLG, the series contains a great deal of information collected by the NLG legal team during the reverse discovery process. The bulk of this material was submitted in response to a request sent to all NLG chapters and the national office. Other materials pertaining to NLG v. AG include research conducted by the NLG's legal team, including the contents of formal case files addressing Guild History as well as legal and factual material, and litigation (related cases, political cases, cases involving John and Louise Rees, and other cases of interest). Throughout the life of the case, a great deal of paper was generated as a result of selecting materials, copying and annotating, analyzing, summarizing, drafting documents and making various notes. A wide variety of working files include three formal files concerning plaintiff response to interrogatories, factual information and document analysis, and analyses of FBI information on individual NLG members, specific time periods and specific topics; special forms developed by the legal team such as evidencing documents and incident forms; logs and summaries; index materials; and many notes and annotations. There are specific working papers developed during discovery and summary judgment preparation as well as personal files kept by Ann Mari Buitrago, who led the data analysis process. Finally, administrative material pertaining to NLG v. AG includes finances and fund raising, office space, outreach, press and publicity; as well as additional subject files from the legal team are also included.

More recent accretions consist of files created by individuals working in NLG regional offices and records related to commitee meetings, conventions, and publications. Records added to the collection in 2014 contain the files of Amy Ruth Tobol, who served as NLG National Vice President (1992-1994) and Vice President NYC Chapter (1988-1991), related to her work on the National Executive Committee and with the New York City chapter between the 1980s and 1990s. They also include the files of Thomas Haney, documenting his work for the NLG's Military Law Office and Chicago regional branch in the 1970s. Additional materials added to the collection in 2015 consist of National Executive Committee meeting records, publications, conference programs, press clippings, and photographs. National Executive Committee records largely date from the 1990s and consist of meeting minutes, budgets, nominations, membership reports, committee correspondence, and regional committee reports. Publications and official reports included among these materials largely address issues of international human rights focusing on Israel and Palestine, South Africa, the War on Terror, and US intervention in Latin America. Other publications include copies NLG referral directories from 1986 – 2009, banquet and conference programs, and issues of periodicals created by affiliated student organizations.

This collection contains 209 cassette tapes, recording NLG convention sessions (1987, 1989 and 1995). These sessions touch on a wide variety of topics of interest to the Guild and its members. Among the remaining tapes are radio broadcasts, meetings and presentations. Approximately four hundred photographs document NLG conferences and events, and include many individual and group portraits. The NYC Chapter is particularly well represented in the photographs, and the Chicago and Detroit Chapters are also included. Additionally the collection contains six oral history interviews contained on 8 CD-Rs. Interviews were recorded between 1986-1988 and one in 2010, and feature interviews with several Guild lawyers. The collection also contains the websites for the National Lawyers Guild and three of their projects: National Lawyers Guild International Committee, National Immigration Project, and the National Police Accountability Project.


The folders in Part 1 are arranged chronologically, except in series IV, XII, and XIV, which are arranged alphabetically. Arrangement of Part 2 varies, with most subseries in alphabetic sequence. Some of the subseries are arranged chronologically. Series I: Subseries B, which contains records of NLG national conventions, is an example of folders arranged by year. A number of subseries containing NLG v. AG court documents are also in date order. A few of the subseries, particularly those containing released government documents, reflect the order imposed by the FBI.

Part 1 is organized into 15 series and Part 2 is organized into 19 series. The first six contain material from the National Office and the New York City Chapter. The next seven involve the court case National Lawyers Guild v. Attorney General. Two series contain records from recent accretions, which are grouped roughly by creator or topic. The remaining series are grouped by format.

Part 1, Series I. Board of Directors (NYC Chapter) and Executive Board, 1937-1969

Part 1, Series II. Executive Officers, 1936-1968

Part 1, Series III. Statements, Resolutions, and Publicity Materials, 1937-1969

Part 1, Series IV. NLG Committees, 1937-1969

Part 1, Series V. Membership Records, 1938-1969

Part 1, Series VI. Chapter Records, 1937-1968

Part 1, Series VII. Convention Records, 1937-1968

Part 1, Series VIII. Publications, 1941-1967

Part 1, Series IX. Dinners, Events and Conferences, 1937-1978

Part 1, Series X. Political Issues, Including Government Investigations, 1942-1968

Part 1, Series XI. Legislation, 1936-1961

Part 1, Series XII. Cases: General Files, 1934-1967

Part 1, Series XIII. Correspondence, 1939-1969

Part 1, Series XIV. Subject Files, 1936-1976

Part 1, Series XV: Addendum, 1937-1968

Part 2, Series I. National Office Administrative and Organizational Records, 1931-2003

Part 2, Series II. National Office Programmatic Records, 1944-2001

Part 2, Series III. National Office Resource/Reference Material, 1949-1999

Part 2, Series IV. Publications and Press Materials, 1938-2004

Part 2, Series V. New York City Chapter Files - Administrative, 1937-2007

Part 2, Series VI. New York City Chapter Files - Programmatic, 1945-1985

Part 2, Series VII. NLG v. AG. Court Documents, Formal File, 1947-1990

Part 2, Series VIII. NLG v. AG. Discovery, 1921-1987

Part 2, Series IX. NLG v. AG. Reverse Discovery, 1937-1987

Part 2, Series X. NLG v. AG. Research, 1937-1988

Part 2, Series XI. NLG v. AG. Working Papers, 1936-1988

Part 2, Series XII. NLG v. AG. Administrative Material, 1937-1986

Part 2, Series XIII. NLG v. AG. Subject Files, 1930-1988

Part 2, Series XIV. 2014 Accretion, 1970s-1997

Part 2, Series XV. 2015 Accretion, 1960-2014

Part 2, Series XVI. Audiocassettes, 1981-1995

Part 2, Series XVII. Photographs, 1940s-1995

Part 2, Series XVIII. Archived Websites, 2007-ongoing

Part 2, Series XIX. Oral Histories