Tag Archives: mltf members

In Memory of Teresa Panepinto

This entry is part of On Watch 28.2 Summer 2017

By Jane Kaplan, Steve Morse and Kathleen Gilberd

We remember Teresa as a passionate advocate for social justice, generous with her expertise and friendship, and a sweet, but uncompromising, fighter for justice.  

Teresa grew up in Altamont, New York, with her social worker parents and two brothers. She graduated from Willamette University in Oregon. After college she joined Peace Brigades International (PBI) to support the human rights of workers, indigenous activists, and others. With PBI, she worked in Colombia putting her life very literally on the line to provide non-violent accompaniment for Colombian activists during a period when that country had one of the highest rates of targeted killings in the world.  She described that experience as teaching her to be a better advocate.

From 2000 to 2004 Teresa worked in Oakland as the GI Rights Program Coordinator for the now-closed Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors (CCCO). The events of September 11, 2001, brought an influx of people seeking to do GI rights counseling. She trained numerous volunteers in the Bay Area and around the country in non-directive military counseling, assisting servicemembers with discharges, grievances, and dissent. Her work served to set up counseling groups in a number of cities, some of which continue today. Teresa mentored and built personal connections with all these counselors, providing support and assistance as they handled complex military law cases. Counselors who trained with her speak of her as a strong advocate and a dedicated teacher, who brought life to dry legal issues and worked with real compassion for her clients. She delved deeply into the details of military regulations and law; for example, she provided extensive legal assistance to Camilo Mejia, the first post-9/11 US soldier to publicly resist after having been in combat.

Teresa was key in building GI counseling as a movement, that developed in parallel with the growing anti-war movement following the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, and in parallel with the growing number of soldiers seeking legal help, many of whom were traumatized by war, opposing the war and/or going AWOL as they faced multiple deployments. Teresa’s work helped lead the way to the formation of the national GI Rights Network, (www.girightshotline.org) which continues to provide counseling to many servicemembers.

David Gespass to speak on police militarization and misconduct at University of Arkansas Fayetteville

David Gespass

The University of Arkansas Student Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild will present a talk by MLTF member David Gespass on November 18. The title of the talk is “When the Thin Blue Line Becomes Delta Force: Rights in the Crosshairs” and it will address police militarization, police misconduct and human rights, both in the US and abroad.

Gespass has written an opinion piece for this website, “Locals have no love for occupying armies, whether in Baghdad or Ferguson” which addressed the events in Ferguson, Missouri, surrounding the killing of Michael Brown there in August of this year.

He had this to say about the topic of his talk:

With increased militarization, the police become more of an occupying force, hostile to the community and serving other hostile forces. Internationally, it’s US imperialism. Within the country, it’s the monopolists. And, when you get right down to it, they are just different names for the same things and people. I’d note that the rising repression in poor communities, especially communities of color and, most especially, poor African-American communities, corresponds to increasing disparity in wealth and greater hopelessness that people can actually make progress through hard work. The result is that there is more of a threat of rebellion and a need to suppress the threat ever more with the stick rather than the carrot.

David began his law practice in Washington, DC, in 1971; his current practice at Gespass and Johnson, a firm established with his wife Kathy Johnson, also an MLTF member, is located in Birmingham, Alabama.

Mr. Gespass’ considerable accomplishments include:

  • In the 1970s, he worked in Yokosuka and Okinawa, Japan, with the National Lawyers Guild Military Law Office, where he assisted US Marines in resisting the Vietnam War.
  • He is the immediate past president of the National Lawyers Guild.
  • He served as editor-in-chief of the Guild Practitioner (now NLG Review), the Guild’s intellectual journal.
  • He was a founder, and serves on the steering committee, of the Military Law Task Force and has been a member of the advisory board of the National Police Accountability Project since its founding in 1999.
  • He’s a member of the organizing committee for the Southern Human Rights Organizers Conference, to be held in Savannah, Georgia, December 12-14, and is an adjunct professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham where he will be teaching a course in human rights during the upcoming term.

New book by MLTF member Marjorie Cohn examines military drones and other targeted killing

The latest book by longtime MLTF member Marjorie Cohn — who is also past president of the National Lawyers Guild — is due for release on October 30 and is now available for pre-order from the publisher and book stores/distributors. The book provides an examination of the Obama administration policy of using drones and other methods in targeted killings off the battlefield.

MLTF’s James Branum interviewed by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!

MLTF member (and past co-chair) James M. Branum, an attorney in Oklahoma City, was a guest on Democracy Now! to talk about Bowe Bergdahl and the legal rights of war resisters. “There Were No Good Options”: Bergdahl Should Get Honorable Discharge, Says Lawyer. Follow link for transcript; video after jump.

MLTF provides GI Rights trainers for Coffee Strong

MLTF will be providing trainers for two GI Rights training workshops at Coffee Strong in December. Coffee Strong is a GI Rights coffeehouse and resource center near Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, and also is one of the member groups providing volunteer lay counseling on the GI Rights Hotline.

Executive Director Kathy Gilberd, along with Seattle area attorney and MLTF member David Miner, will conduct a two-day introductory GI Rights hotline training, then Kathy will lead an advanced workshop on discharge upgrades.