Michael Ratner, 1943-2016

This a terrible loss.

Michael Ratner, the president emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights, died today in New York City. For the past four decades he has been a leading champion of human and civil rights, from leading the fight to close Guantánamo to representing WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange to holding torturers accountable, at home and abroad.

Michael was a prince. Whenever we had a civil liberties crisis at Brooklyn College—which is to say, all the time: a former student held on material support for terrorism charges; an adjunct fired for his views on the Middle East; a panel discussion that almost got canceled because of threats from politicians—I’d email Michael. No matter where he was (one time, I remember, he responded to me from Oaxaca), or what he was doing, he was ever ready, available, and willing to help.

It did not go unnoticed, not to me at any rate, that he was helping out a non-elite institution, where he wouldn’t get a lot of headlines (though somehow we wound up getting those, too!) but would be doing a lot of good.

When I think on the fact that mine was but one of hundreds, if not thousands, of emails that he was getting every day—and that I was competing with the many high-profile causes that Michael was identified with—I’m even more in awe.

He was a fighter’s fighter. But always buoyant. A happy warrior.


  1. My god, my god….

    For years I listened to him and his great crew on the radio show “Law And Disorder” on WBAI.

    I am going to miss his voice, his passion, his energetic humor.

    This is a loss we are all going to feel….

    My condolences to Michael Ratner’s family, his colleagues, his fans, his students, his clients, his listeners on WBAI and around the world.

    We Black Progressives have an expression: “He has joined the ancestors.”

  2. Richard Girard May 11, 2016 at 4:14 pm | #

    Even I, ensconced in Colorado, am aware Of Mr. Ratner, and know how he will be missed. Safe travels to the great pub in the sky, where Marx holds his temper, Lenin gets shouted down by Thomas Paine, and Jefferson, Franklin, I.F. Stone and Kropotkin sit at the table in the corner, trying not to laugh out loud.

  3. xenon2 May 11, 2016 at 4:24 pm | #

    oh, no….not Michael Ratner.
    He was great!

  4. And above all…

    We will miss his advocacy.

  5. robert kircher May 12, 2016 at 1:00 am | #

    MR, a wonderrful, persistent champion of the common good. not an easy task. a great voice, a positive force.

    Thanks, corey, for the opportunity to praise a very worthy man.

    not unnoticed for a moment is your persistent, positive, inquisitive voice. not the least of which deserves kudos for your endeavors to make prof salaita’s struggle an international cause. MR surely reflected your grace & wisdom.

  6. Edward May 13, 2016 at 9:23 am | #

    Michael Ratner was an excellent fellow. I guess we are at the point where the baby boomers who came of age in the 1960’s are passing on.

Leave a Reply