Cover of Defending the Public
Defending the Public's Enemy
The Life and Legacy of Ramsey Clark
Lonnie T. Brown


July 2019
320 pages.

Cloth ISBN: 9781503601390



How did a former chief lawyer for the United States transform into one of America's most notorious defenders of the despised? Defending the Public's Enemy is the first book to explore the enigmatic and perplexing life and legal career of U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark.

Over the last ten years, Lonnie T. Brown conducted extensive research and interviews to answer one question: how did Ramsey Clark go from admired government insider and leader of the Department of Justice, to staunch defender of some of America's most vilified enemies, including Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein?

A political gadfly, Clark played a role in a staggering array of seminal historical and political episodes. His life and work were enmeshed with some of the most notable people and events of the 1960s: Martin Luther King Jr., the Watts Riots, the Voting Rights Act, the Selma-to-Montgomery March, the Black Panthers, Muhammad Ali. In service of his country, Clark worked tirelessly, especially to secure the civil rights of black Americans, courageously resisting persistent, racially-tinged calls for more law and order by white politicians. Upon entering the private sector, the former insider became one of his government's staunchest critics and sidled up to a mystifying assortment of clients. Clark provided legal defense to internationally-despised figures, alleged terrorists, reputed Nazi war criminals, and brutal dictators.

Is Clark a man of character and integrity, committed to holding his government accountable to the ideals of fairness and justice, or is he a professional antagonist, anti-American and reflexively contrarian to all that our leaders promote? The provocative life chronicled in Defending the Public's Enemy personifies the contradictions at the heart of American political history, and our ambivalent relationship with dissenters and marginalized groups, as well as those who embody a fiercely independent revolutionary spirit.

About the author

Lonnie T. Brown, Jr. is the A. Gus Cleveland Distinguished Chair of Legal Ethics and Professionalism at the University of Georgia School of Law. He specializes in legal ethics and civil procedure, and speaks and publishes widely in the area of legal ethics in the adversary process.

"Ramsey Clark is at once an important participant in the major events of the past 60-plus years of American and world history, particularly relating to civil and human rights, and a lawyer whose professional career is among the most interesting and impactful. Brown's book is both a fascinating account of the man and lawyer and a captivating lens through which to see a connection among important events in contemporary history."

—Bruce Green, Fordham University School of Law

"In this captivating biography, Lonnie T. Brown offers an intimate window into Ramsey Clark's controversial career as it intersected and shaped twentieth-century political and legal history, and challenges how we understand the role of lawyers in a democratic society."

—Anthony Romero, Executive Director, ACLU

"Evolving from one of the most accomplished public lawyers of his time to perhaps the most vilified, Ramsey Clark has been an important and controversial participant in nearly every important American public debate, from civil rights to the post-9/11 world. In this sympathetic, personal account, Lonnie T. Brown, Jr. strikes a balance between Clark's defenders and his critics. Clark will continue to inspire passionate disagreement, but this is the best account we have of the career of this important public figure."

—Kenneth W. Mack, author of Representing the Race: The Creation of the Civil Rights Lawyer

"Lonnie T. Brown Jr.'s biography of the remarkable Ramsey Clark is careful, thorough, and insightful. It is an important contribution to the history of American lawyering."

—Randall Kennedy, Harvard Law School