¡Patrick Hallinan, Presente!

Gar Smith
Saturday October 26, 2019 - 12:14:00 PM
A young Patrick Hallinan
A young Patrick Hallinan

Celebrated lawyer, activist, leftist, and labor-and-civil-rights sparkplug Patrick Hallinan died on October 8. In fond remembrance, here are some excerpts from his official biography, followed by a testimonial from Bay Area author David Talbot.

"Patrick Sarsfield Hallinan graduated from Hastings College of the Law (J.D. 1962) and the University of California, Berkeley (B.A. 1959, M.A. 1971).

Patrick Hallinan was active in high profile legal and political issues involving the conflict between the exercise of governmental power and individual liberty throughout his life, as were his late father, trial lawyer Vincent Hallinan, his political activist mother, Vivian, his Irish rebel grandfather Black Mick, his cousin Eamon DeValera, president of Ireland, his mother’s cousin Giuseppi Garibaldi, liberator of Italy, and his brother Terence Hallinan, the recent reform-minded District Attorney of San Francisco. . . ."

"Patrick began his social activism at age six by selling stamps in support of refugees of the Spanish Civil War. He delivered his father’s acceptance speech for the Progressive Party Presidential nomination in 1952 while his father was in jail on a contempt of court charge arising from his defense of labor leader Harry Bridges. During his father’s incarceration, Patrick traveled the country with Paul Robeson and W.E.B. Dubois in support of his father’s candidacy and the progressive movement. He was a leader in the Free Speech Moment at Berkeley, directed the West Coast Mobilization against the War in Viet Nam and, along with his entire family, was arrested in the San Francisco Auto Row sit-ins. 

"Patrick S. Hallinan is a trial attorney specializing in the litigation of complex criminal cases in state and federal court. He has practiced law in San Francisco for 38 years and, throughout his career, has been active in high-profile legal and political issues involving the conflict between the exercise of governmental power and individual liberty. He has been named the leading criminal defense lawyer in the Bay Area Surveys by the San Francisco Examiner and Attorney of the Year by California Attorneys for Criminal Justice as well as by the Drug Policy Commission of Washington, D.C. 

"He has also been a frequent speaker at various bar and legal functions. Mr. Hallinan has represented author Ken Kesey, San Francisco District Attorney Joe Freitas, California Court of Appeal Justice William Newsom, Congressman John Burton, Black Panther author Eldridge Cleaver, the Soledad Seven, San Francisco Sheriff Richard Hongisto, Federal District Court Judge Robert Aguilar, and former California Schools Superintendant William Honig. 

Mr. Hallinan was also featured in the PBS series Frontline: Snitch, a documentary about the harmful effects of the government's use of paid informants in the federal criminal justice system." 

Remembering Patrick Hallinan 

By David Talbot on Facebook  

(October 12, 2019) — I was sad to hear of the passing of Patrick Hallinan, on October 8—the eldest son of Vincent and Vivian Hallinan, whose brawling brood created our rebellious San Francisco's values, nearly all by themselves. 

Patriarch Vincent, "the lion of the courtroom," fought power all his life—City Hall, corporate titans, the Catholic Church, the federal government. 

His legendary fights for labor justice and civil rights got him thrown into federal prison during the Cold War. But with his equally tough, shrewd (and beautiful) wife Vivian, they created a family dynasty of six (!) boys—anointing them all with boxers' nicknames and teaching them how to fight because they knew the "Red Hallinans" were going to be embattled from birth. [For the record, the Hallinan kids went by the nicknames "Butch," "Kayo," "Toughy," "Dynamite," "Ringo," and "Dangerous"—GS] 

Vincent imbued his sons early with an important lesson: Don't just question authority, sneer at it whenever appropriate. 

"I'll always give you the best advice I can, but make up your own minds," he counseled his boys. "No matter how firmly I believe something, it might be 100% false; everything I know may be wrong." 

Patrick (Butch) Hallinan followed his old man into the family law firm, and was thrown immediately into the fray. He's pictured below as a young man (with dark hair, no glasses), defending protesters who were arrested during raucous civil rights demonstrations in the early 1960s at San Francisco's Auto Row, the Sheraton Palace Hotel and other city businesses that practiced racial discrimination. These protests introduced a new wave of youthful militancy, leading to San Francisco becoming a center of the 1960s-'70s revolution. 

I had the pleasure of interviewing Patrick for my book "Season of the Witch." Like the fellow "wild Irish rogues" in his family, he was a splendid storyteller and made his clan's tale—and the entire era—come vividly to life. The Hallinan story kicks off my book, with young Vince and Viv's early capers reading like Nick and Nora's from Dashiell Hammett's "Thin Man" series. 

With Patrick now joining his mother and father in the great beyond, I'll quote from the late Mayor Joe Alioto's eulogy for Vincent, because it rings true for Butch too. "If his duels and tilts were with God, at least he was picking on someone his own size." 

The Hallinans were the "social conscience of San Francisco," Alioto continued, "... in many respects the heart of San Francisco." 

Amen... and since they were not a pious family, right on, too.