From a Military Pawn to Pursuit of Justice


(Dan a midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland)

From a pawn in the military to law school and becoming a legal aid attorney started my recreated journey. Soon I became a staff attorney for Cesar Chavez’s United Farm Workers Union (AFL-CIO).

Cesar Chavez and dogs Huelga and Boycott

(Cesar Chavez with his dogs, Boycott and Huelga)

Later the ACLU of Southern California selected me as Director of the ACLU Farm Worker Project in Los Angeles. I submerged myself into the cutting edge of civil rights and consumer litigation with all my energy.

Dan hired by ACLU for farmworker project in Los Angeles 1974

Dan, Joan, and Aleksey at the Gallo March during the Boycott

Dan, Joan, and Aleksey at the Gallo March during the Boycott

(Top) Dan Hired by The ACLU as Director of the Farm Worker Project.

Meanwhile, Joan and I raised a family that fulfilled my vision coupled with my quickly learned advocacy skills that enabled me to continue a profession on a path others said would be impossible—it was one few traveled—but I met enough dedicated individuals whose life shined that I knew it was right for me.

Dan and Joan with Shiva in Berkeley

(Dan, Shiva, and Joan)

I completed litigation for the UFW when we resolved pending cases and The Agricultural Labor Relations Act created a board that resolved farm worker labor disputes and decided to launch my own civil rights practice. At the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission I researched cases where the charging party needed counsel and selected those that appeared meritorious. Meanwhile, The San Fernando Valley Law School selected me as their Constitutional Law professor. At the Federal Court of Appeals, I represented indigent appellants from criminal convictions. Many EEOC cases settled, kept employees from losing jobs, or from other types of discrimination, and compensated the client and me.


(Dan at his Encino Civil Rights Office)

A union client came to my office complaining that he had been defamed and terminated from General Telephone Company. A judge dismissed his case in an order that held an employer had a qualified privilege to slander an employee for internal communications. My appeal was successful in Kelly v. General Telephone, (1982) 136 Cal. App. 3d 278, 186 Cal. Rptr. 184, and established a precedent on pleading a slander case, qualified privilege, and negligent infliction of an employee’s emotional distress that also allowed punitive damages. A large jury verdict the next year established justice for my client,  trial expertise, and unforeseen success. Dan Reading poem at Onion Fall Poetry Festival 11102013

(Dan reading from his memoir at Crown Books in Woodland Hills)

Recovering from each fiasco in my life and having learned a lesson each time, I defined a vision of what might occupy the rest of my life: a pursuit of social justice in whatever way I could find appropriate. The pieces fell together through hard work, determination, and a future with a woman who inspired me and calmed my wildness from swirling rapids to a deep river that refreshed and enabled me to continue against all odds.  Once I found a path that consumed me with passion I aimed as high as I could. No matter what confronts the reader, my story demonstrates an ordinary person can survive major conflicts, disappointments, injuries, risk of death, and still flourish. And if one's life contains advice to others struggling to find themselves after many mistakes,  studying creative writing under poets, authors, and professors and publishing a memoir offers an opportunity to share that vision with gratitude.


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