Victor Rabinowitz, 96, a New York lawyer whose clients included the country of Cuba and who titled his autobiography, “Unrepentant Leftist,” died Nov. 16, 2007, at his Manhattan home.
Rabinowitz and his law partner Leonard B. Boudin, who died on Nov. 24, 1989, defended clients such as Julian Bond, Daniel Ellsberg, Paul Robeson, the Rev. Philip Berrigan, Rockwell Kent and Alger Hiss, when they ran afoul of U.S. authorities, according to news accounts.
In a 1996 review of Rabinowitz’s memoir, writer John Mage said Rabinowitz and Boudin’s cases “taken together would be a pretty thorough and continuing history of political struggle and repression in the United States over the past fifty years. It is a record unmatched by any other law firm in the country; there isn’t even a close second.”
Boudin and Rabinowitz won Cuba’s revolutionary government as a client over a poolside chess game with Che Guevara at Havana’s Hotel Riviera in 1960, their law partner, Michael Krinsky, told the New York Times.
As Cuba’s counsel, Rabinowitz won a case before the U.S. Supreme Court which upheld the doctrine that said other countries’ internal affairs would not be questioned by American courts.
Rabinowitz was born on July 2, 1911, in Brooklyn, and grew up there. In his 1996 autobiography, he talks about the anarchist, socialist and left-wing roots that ran deep in his New York Jewish immigrant family. He wrote that his grandfather, Jacob Netter, was the author of several books in Yiddish, wrote for several Yiddish anarchist newspapers and associated with Emma Goldman.
Various aunts and uncles were active in Socialist and anarchist circles in turn of the century New York City. His father received and then rejected an Orthodox education in Lithuania and then fell in with the radical Netter family once he came to New York. Rabinowitz’s father also gave speeches on radical leftist platforms, and Rabinowitz said in his memoirs that was “part of the environment in which I grew up.”
Rabinowitz represented unions and at least once bought stock in a company with which it was negotiating, so he could confront them at the annual meeting.
Rabinowitz belonged to the Communist Party from 1942 until the early 1960s, was active in the American Labor Party, and helped found the National Lawyers Guild, a left-wing alternative to the racially segregated American Bar Association.
Rabinowitz was married twice, to Marcia Goldberg, and Joanne Grant. Children from his first marriage are Peter Rabinowitz of Clinton, N.Y., and Joni Rabinowitz of Pittsburgh; children from his second marriage are, Mark Rabinowitz of Manhattan and Abby Rabinowitz of Hamburg, N.J. He had two grandchildren.