A Young Lawyer in the 60s by Karen Koonan
Peter Franck learned about the Lawyers Guild from Ann Ginger in 1957 while an undergrad at UC Berkeley and active in SLATE, one of the very first new left political organizations on a college campus. Peter joined the Guild soon after passing the California Bar in 1963 and was invited by Fay Stender onto the Board of the San Francisco Chapter. He was an early leader in the struggle within the NLG to be an “activist lawyers organization” and not just a “Bar Association.” He helped to develop a compromise resolution at the 1964 convention to bridge the gap between old left and new left members.
In 1966 as the attorney for the Vietnam Day Committee, Peter obtained a federal injunction requiring the Oakland to permit a march through the city to the Oakland Army Base. That same year, he and others set up the Council for Justice (CFJ) to coordinate legal defense for farm workers and anti-war activists. While not formally a Guild organization, CFJ relied on Guild lawyers to defend anti-war demonstrators at the Port Chicago Naval munitions base and to work in Delano at the United Farm Workers’ union headquarters and elsewhere in the San Joaquin Valley.
During this time of the Vietnam war he actively practiced draft law in Berkeley, which led to his becoming an entertainment lawyer as the war waned.
From 1973 through 1984, he was active at KPFA and the Pacifica Foundation, serving as Foundation President from 1980-84. In 1985, he joined the board of San Francisco based Media Alliance.
In 1992-93 Peter served as National Treasurer of the Guild, and on its national board.
Peter pioneered Guild work in the area of media monopoly and the First Amendment, as a member of a subcommittee of the International Committee on this issue, which later became a separate standing committee of the Guild, the Committee on Democratic Communications (CDC). In 1989, CDC took up the issue of the FCC’s ban on low-power radio (aka Pirate radio), arguing with some success that the ban was a violation of the First Amendment and international law. Peter and others in the CDC represented low-power broadcasters under attack by the FCC and CDC became a central resource center for Guild and non-Guild lawyers defending unlicensed broadcasters throughout the country. CDC later helped shape the FCC regulations that legalized low-power FM. There are now hundreds of these licensed stations on the air, with more created all the time. Peter was a founding member of Alameda Community Radio and currently serves as Chairman of its Board.
Peter returned to serve on the Executive Board of the SF Chapter from 2011 through 2014, providing guidance and support to a new generation of Guild leaders.