Remembering the Legacy of William T. Street

Posted In: News, Local,   From Issue 803   By: Robert E Martin

15th January, 2015     0

Saginaw and the entire Great Lakes Bay region has experienced a severe blow with the untimely passing of attorney William T-Street only a few days shy of his 69th birthday. Bill was a Vietnam era veteran of the U.S. Army and also a committed anti-war activist. He graduated from the University of Michigan Law School and was admitted to the state bar in 1975, after which he joined Legal Services of Eastern Michigan and began his private practice with fellow attorney and partner, Barbara Klimaszewski in the firm of Klimaszewski & Street.

The son of a former FBI agent, Bill specialized in criminal defense and civil rights advocacy, representing the poor, indigent, and disadvantaged. He possessed a brilliant mind hand harbored a compassionate soul and served as an irreplaceable advocate for the dispossessed and a staunch defender of the 1st and 4th Amendments of the Bill of Rights.

One of his most notable cases involved Timothy Boomer, known as the ‘Cussing Canoeist’ that gained national attention in 1998 when Boomer was convicted up in Standish for using profanities within earshot of a woman and her children after he fell out of his canoe on the Rifle River. Boomer was arrested by a sheriff’s deputy patrolling the river and charged under a state law that made it illegal to swear in front of women and children. Street handled many constitutional matters in his work with the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, and Boomer’s arrest was challenged as a violation of free speech on the grounds the law was over broad and vague and that the state could not make improper language illegal. The case went to trail and while Boomer was convicted, the case was eventually won upon appeal, adding further clarity to freedom of speech in Michigan and strengthening first amendment protections for Michigan citizens.

Few people also realize that Bill played an important role in an ACLU case that successfully led to the suspension of random road blocks to check for intoxicated drivers in the State of Michigan back in the late 1980s.  States across the union were setting up ‘random checkpoint lanes’ and stopping consecutive vehicles for random searches, but thanks to an argument fashioned around the 10th Amendment to the Constitution and the notion that Michigan’s close relationship to the automobile, coupled with the lack of mass transit and an expanded expectation of zones of privacy for Michigan drivers, citizens in Michigan were spared this odious and invasive practice.

Most recently Street stood up against racial profiling and could always be counted upon to deliver deeply thoughtful articulation to all matters involving our civil liberties.

He will definitely be missed.

 

 

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