I became a lawyer to defend the right to free expression and to advance the legal rights of those pushed to the margins by the legal system.
As an activist in the global justice / anti-globalization movement of the 1990s, I was swept up in numerous mass arrests of demonstrators. Activist attorneys always got me out of jail and filed the lawsuits against city officials and police departments to assure that demonstrators wouldn’t be arrested the next time. I decided to become one of those lawyers.
I began my career at the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York City. Founded by legendary civil rights attorneys William Kunstler, Ben Smith, Arthur Kinoy, and Morty Stavis, the Center has been one of the most vocal and aggressive legal organizations supporting progressive and radical movements. While there, I focused on issues involving suppression of dissent, activist defense, and police and government misconduct. I litigated a class action challenge the prolonged detention and restrictive confinement of Arab, Muslim, and South Asian men arrested on immigration violations in the New York / New Jersey area in wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, represented anti-war activists unlawfully arrested when protesting against military contractors at the beginning of the second Iraq War, and supported the SHAC 7—animal rights activists who faced charges of Animal Enterprise Terror for running a website which advocated and reported on both legal and illegal protests against a laboratory. I also authored CCR’s know-your-rights booklet If An Agent Knocks (which has been translated into Spanish, Arabic, and Urdu).
In 2009, I returned to Los Angeles and joined the Disability Rights Legal Center, where my practiced focused primarily on the intersection of disability and law enforcement. I litigated a class action challenge to the abysmal conditions at the L.A. County Jail for people with physical disabilities, class actions against three separate police departments for failing to provide effective communication for people who are deaf or hard of hearing during encounters with cops, and a case addressing the failure of law enforcement agencies to accommodate a young woman with severe cognitive disabilities in the execution of a search warrant and interrogations of family members at her home.
In 2011, I joined the PETA Foundation, where I sought to improve the lives of animals through legal advocacy. As a vegan my entire adult life, I sought to enforce the few legal protections afforded to animals and to defend the rights of activists who spoke up for animal rights. As Director of Litigation, I oversaw and litigated matters involving the First Amendment and animal law, including challenging state “Ag-Gag” laws which seek to criminalize undercover investigations at factory farms, content-based prohibitions against animal rights advocacy in government-run advertising, and a school board that sought to fire a teacher for advocating veganism on his personal Facebook page. I also litigated cases attempting to establish certain constitutional rights for non-human animals, Endangered Species Act litigation on behalf of captive animals, consumer protection actions seeking to enforce laws against animal cruelty, as well as public records litigation against government administrative agencies for failing to protect animals as required by law.
I founded the Law Office of Matthew Strugar to return to civil rights, prisoners’ rights, police misconduct, and protester defense, while maintaining animal law as an as important aspect of my practice. The Law Office of Matthew Strugar has represented journalists, housing rights activists, immigrant rights activists, and animal rights activists sued for exercising their free speech rights on anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation), a variety of demonstrators who were falsely arrested while exercising their First Amendment rights, individuals made to register as sex offenders under a homophobic and unconstitutional Mississippi registration scheme, as well as animal rights and homeless rights advocates seeking access to public records.
I am barred in California, New York, and the District of Columbia.
When not being a lawyer, I enjoy participating in the social movements I represent, supporting the L.A. music scene, and camping. If it’s warm outside, you can often find me at Echo Park Lake.
Currently listening to: Joanna Newsom, Phoebe Bridgers, Vince Staples (all based in L.A.!), Group Doueh, Mt. Eerie, Soccer Mommy, Tinerawin
Currently reading: How to Do Nothing, Jenny Odell; This Life: Secular Faith and Spiritual Freedom, Martin Hägglund