A Lawyer for Whom Winning Isn’t Everything
By MICHELLE YORK
Published: October 4, 2005
New York TimesBINGHAMTON,N.Y.
IN mid-September, William P. Quigley was almost blown into this small middle-class city by Hurricane Katrina.
Professor Quigley, who teaches law at LoyolaUniversity in New Orleans, was in New York to be an adviser to four antiwar protesters who were defending themselves against federal conspiracy charges after splashing their blood at a military recruiting center.
William P. Quigley was an adviser to four antiwar protesters who were convicted last week of damaging government property and trespassing.
He and his wife, Debbie Dupre Quigley, had endured first Katrina and then, since they had temporarily relocated to Houston, the winds of Rita. Other people in circumstances similar to these might have understandably cut further obligations short. But Professor Quigley said he believed his next client coming later in the week – a prominent political prisoner in Haiti, the Rev. Gérard Jean-Juste – was worse off.
Then while he awaited a verdict in the Binghamton case and prepared for his case in Haiti, his cellphone rang. It was Johanna Berrigan, who was calling from amid a sea of protesters in front of the White House. More work was in the forecast.
“What time are y’all going to risk arrest?” Professor Quigley asked. “God bless. I wish I was there, too.”
Professor Quigley, 56, has represented a network of human rights organizations and activists.
He once wanted to be a Roman Catholic priest. He turned to social activism, and met his wife while working in a housing project in New Orleans. She worked to help put him through law school.
After graduation, he started a private practice, dividing his time between traditional cases, so he could support his wife and two sons, and pro bono work defending activists and the poor.
In 1991, Loyola recruited him, and that turned into a professorship, with the school encouraging after-hours pro bono work on civil and human rights cases.
Often the protesters he defends readily acknowledge that they broke the law in pursuit of a larger goal.
“I’ve lost more cases than any lawyer in the country,” Professor Quigley said. “But for great people and for great causes.”
Kathy Kelly, a founder of Voices in the Wilderness, a pacifist group, was happy to have him represent the organization even though a judge eventually fined her group $20,000.
“It’s a relief to have someone in the legal system who will stand up for what he believes in,” she said.
The sympathetic outlook does not always win him fans. “I don’t interject my personal views into an argument; Bill does,” said Miroslav Lovric, an assistant United States attorney who prosecuted the Binghamton case. But to Professor Quigley’s clients, the fact that he identifies with them is endearing.
That is what happened on Sept. 26, when a jury in Binghamton convicted the antiwar defendants of damaging government property and trespassing. Jurors, however, acquitted the group of the most serious charge, federal conspiracy.
After the defendants and their supporters stopped applauding, Professor Quigley moved outside to answer reporters’ questions. The rain began to pour. He paused and said, “They say these are the remnants of Hurricane Rita,” as he braced against a gust of wind. “I can’t escape it.”