The son of a physician, Kunstler was born in New York City, and educated at Yale and Columbia Universities. He was admitted to the bar in New York in 1948 and began practicing law. He was an associate professor of law at New York Law School (1950-1951) and at Pace (1951-1963) and lectured at the New School for Social Research (1966-1971).
He was a director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) from 1964 to 1972, when he bacame a member of the ACLU National Council. In 1969 he was a co-founder of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
Kunstler served in the U.S. Army during World War II in the Pacific theater, attaining the rank of Major. He received the Bronze Star.
Kunstler's image was that of a flamboyant radical who defended controversial clients. Some of his clients included Lenny Bruce, H. Rap Brown, Stokely Carmichael, American Indian Movement (AIM) leaders, Jack Ruby, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Martin Luther King, and Malcolm X.
He gained national renown for defending the "Chicago Seven" (originally "Chicago Eight") against charges of conspiring to incite riots in Chicago during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. During the trial, he and the other defence attorney, Leonard Weinglass, were cited for contempt (the convictions were later overturned).
Kunstler died in New York of a heart attack at the age of 76.
List of Books