Michael Avery was the President of the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) from 2003 to 2006. In that role, he consistently condemned the Bush administration, its war on terror, and its 2003 invasion of Iraq. “I’m afraid that if we want President Bush to go,” said Avery in 2003, “we will have to make that happen ourselves. The President repeatedly lied about the justification for going to war in Iraq, to the Congress, to the United Nations and to the American people. Where are the weapons of mass destruction? They don’t exist. If they find any now, we should look for the ‘made in the USA’ label on the bottom.”
On February 10, 2005, NLG published a news release expressing its support for the self-proclaimed “radical activist attorney” Lynne Stewart, who had just been convicted of providing material aid to the Islamic Group, an Egypt-based terrorist organization whose leader, Omar Abdel Rahman, helped mastermind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. In the NLG statement, Michael Avery is quoted as saying: “The National Lawyers Guild strongly urges its own members and other defense lawyers to continue to proudly represent clients who are openly critical of government policies. We will not be intimidated and this prosecution has only strengthened our resolve to oppose the repressive attacks this government has made on the civil liberties of everyone in this country. We will also continue to stand by Lynne Stewart.”
During his years with NLG, Avery served as President of the organization’s National Police Accountability Project. Founded on the premise that police brutality and corruption are widespread, this initiative seeks to “en[d] police abuse of authority through coordinated legal action, public education, and support for grassroots and victims’ organizations combating police misconduct.”
In a 2004 letter addressed to President Bush, Avery joined Nan Aron, Marjorie Cohn, Peter Edelman, Kim Gandy, Ralph Neas, Michael Posner, Kenneth Roth, and others in denouncing America’s use of harsh interrogation techniques on suspected terrorists, demanding that the Bush administration release all memoranda relating to the treatment of enemy combatants, and calling for an inquiry into “the shameful abuses that have been exposed and are being investigated at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad and at other military prisons.”
In a 2005 letter addressed to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Avery and a number of co-signers tried to scuttle President Bush’s nomination of Alberto Gonzales as U.S. Attorney General — because Gonzales: (a) maintained that Guantanamo detainees were not entitled to Geneva Convention protections; (b) approved the use of coercive interrogation techniques on terror suspects; and (c) supported the use of military commissions to try non-citizens for war crimes. Fellow signers included Nan Aron, Derrick Bell, Bernardine Dohrn, Kim Gandy, and Paul Newman.
In October 2005, Avery was a signatory to a letter urging the United States Supreme Court to review the case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. Specifically, the letter called into question the President’s authority to appoint judges in cases involving enemy combatants. The case in question involved Salim Ahmed Hamdan, a driver and bodyguard for Osama bin Laden, who was charged in July 2003 with conspiracy to commit terrorism and was being held at Guantanamo Bay.
In addition to his affiliation with the National Lawyers Guild, over the years Avery has served in various capacities with the American Civil Liberties Union. Today he is a Cooperating Attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, a pro-Castro organization.
Avery earned his Law degree at Yale University and attended University of Moscow from 1968 to 1969. He is also a law professor and Director of the Macaronis Civil Litigation Concentration at the Suffolk University Law School in Boston, Massachusetts. He has authored or edited three books, including We Dissent (2007); Police Chases: More Deadly Than a Speeding Bullet? (1997); and Police Misconduct: Law and Litigation (1996).