They came to the aid of an ever-growing community of dissidents who needed to be defended in courts of law.
By Alice Embree | The Rag Blog | November 29, 2022
AUSTIN — In the midst of the national upheaval ignited by the civil rights and antiwar movements, Austin attorneys created a law practice devoted to the needs of the movement. They defended movement leaders who were harassed on the streets or in their offices; they defended demonstrators when they were arrested, draft resisters facing charges,-and GIs at courts martial. They came to the aid of an ever-growing community of dissidents who needed to be defended in courts of law. They worked to create a statewide network with other like-minded attorneys, and they created a unique, collectively-run, model for practicing law.
Jim Simons operated as a sole practitioner taking on movement legal work in 1968. He represented draft resister Enrique Madrid. He represented 42 defendants arrested in May 1968 at Don Weedon’s Conoco station in Austin, as they protested a racist assault by the owner. He also represented Austin SNCC organizer Larry Jackson, a founder of the Community United Front. And he spent many hours giving legal advice and defending antiwar GIs and Oleo Strut staff in Killeen, Texas, home of the massive army base Fort Hood. Jim Simons built the foundation for the Austin Law Commune with his movement practice as a sole practitioner.
On October 1, 1969, the Austin Law Commune was born. First located in a small office on West 24th Street, they moved to an office at West 15th and then, in 1973, to an office on West 12th. According to Time magazine, it was the third such commune in the country. The Austin Law Commune closed shop in 1977.