William Turner

Constitutional lawyer

For the last 30 years William Turner has taught courses on freedom of speech and the press at UC Berkeley, teaching thousands of undergraduates and graduate journalism students about the First Amendment. In recent years, he has also taught senior citizens at OLLI@Berkeley and at the Fromm Institute at the University of San Francisco.

Turner practiced law for 45 years. As a San Francisco lawyer, he specialized in unusual litigation, including constitutional law. He argued three cases before the United States Supreme Court (including two First Amendment cases) and more than 40 cases in lower appellate courts, and served as lead counsel in many notable state and federal trials.

Turner graduated from the Harvard Law School in 1963 and, after a Fulbright fellowship in comparative law, spent three years with a New York law firm. This was followed by nearly ten years with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund doing civil rights law. He returned to teach at Harvard in 1977. He founded his own law firm in San Francisco in 1978 and served as its senior partner until 1992. He was of counsel to the firm of Rogers Joseph O’Donnell from 1992 to 2008.

Turner has published dozens of articles in various magazines, newspapers, law reviews, and online sites. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Politico, Wired, the San Francisco Chronicle, Harvard Magazine, The Threepenny Review and many other publications. He served as Legal Affairs Correspondent for KQED television, winning numerous awards for news and documentaries on legal subjects. He was Legal Consultant to the PBS “We The People” series on the Bicentennial of the Constitution. He is the author of Figures of Speech: First Amendment Heroes and Villains.

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