While studying law at the University of Pittsburgh in March 1970, Paul Boas joined a peaceful nighttime protest against the military draft by picketing outside the Squirrel Hill home of Irwin Steinsapir, a member of the local draft board. Police arrested Mr. Boas and seven other men, who spent the night in jail.
The next day, supporters arrived at a hearing for the men before City Magistrate Robert E. Dauer. A police officer guarding the courtroom yanked the ponytail of one of the defendants who was not facing the judge. A disturbance broke out in the courtroom, and Mr. Dauer ordered the room cleared.
Then a riot broke out in the court’s anteroom. Police made five arrests. “The protesters blamed it on the police. The police blamed it on the protesters,” Mr. Boas recalled.
Enter William Kunstler, who argued that the state’s prosecution of draft protesters was done in bad faith and was “designed to chill and deter First Amendment expression.”
Eventually, the protesters’ convictions were reduced to minor offenses, such as disorderly conduct. Mr. Boas was found not guilty of disorderly conduct related to the Squirrel Hill protest.
Mr. Kunstler “was a brilliant lawyer, a great guy,” said Mr. Boas, who graduated from the Pitt Law School in 1972 and now is a Pittsburgh criminal defense lawyer. “He had boundless energy and fight in him until the end. Just when you were feeling blue and defeated, he’d come in and inspire you.”