(Originally aired: 02-01-99)







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"Conversations with Harold Hudson Channer"

Upcoming Cable Television/Web Show:

For details of airing see bottom of page


Monday JUNE 7


                                (Originally aired: 01-20-98)

                             CHARLES ADLER Esq.




                            Criminal Defense Lawyer



   The VCL is an association of lawyers and judges whose members share

      strong misgivings about the wisdom and consequences of America's

                                         perpetual drug war.

               Volunteer Committee of Lawyers


The program can be viewed in its entirety by clicking the you tube link below:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0-EpwyoipM - CHARLES ADLER




Charles D. Adler, Esq., is an experienced criminal defense attorney, who advocates examining alternatives to current drug policy. He is the President of the Voluntary Committee of Lawyers, a new organization of attorneys that seeks to promote honest and informed discussion of drug policy within the legal profession and encourages local bar associations to undertake research on drug policy.He is also the President of the Center for Community Alternatives. CCA is a not-for-profit agency whose mission is to develop safe and effective alternatives to incarceration and to foster a more sensible approach to juvenile and criminal justice. CCA "serves kids in trouble - young people who face problems with drugs, guns and community violence." CCA works with youth as individuals, teaching them about alternatives to violence and drugs and referring them to drug treatment when needed. CCA programs also provide opportunities for positive community involvement, including work and community service. CCA youth are trained to become leaders in their own communities so they can also encourage safe, productive, and healthy lives among their peers.Mr. Adler is the Chair of the Committee of Criminal Law and a member of the Criminal Justice Council of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York. He sits on the Board of Directors of the New York City Legal Aid Society Alumni Association, is a faculty member in the Intensive Trial Advocacy Program at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, and is a member of the Drug Policy Task Force of the New York County Lawyers Association. As an attorney, he has concentrated on federal and state criminal litigation, including trials and appeals. Noteworthy cases he has been involved in include: U. S. v. Monsanto, decided by the United States Supreme Court, which rejected the right of criminal defendants to use restrained funds for attorney fees to defend the charges upon which the restraint and forfeiture rested; and U.S. v. All Funds on Deposit, Etc., which extended the Second Circuit's Monsanto hearing requirement to funds restrained in a civil forfeiture proceeding paralleling a criminal charge. Mr. Adler graduated with honors from New York Law School in 1970.

Contact Address: 598 Madison Avenue New York, NY 10022
Phone: (212) 753-8940
Email: chadler@mindspring.com



The First VCL

The Original Voluntary Committee of Lawyers (1927-33)

By Richard M. Evans

In 1927, nine prominent New York lawyers associated themselves under the intentionally-bland name, "Voluntary Committee of Lawyers," declaring as their purpose "to preserve the spirit of the Constitution of the United States [by] bringing about the repeal of the so-called Volstead Act and the 18th Amendment." They propelled nothing short of a revolution in drug policy, the repeal of the 18th Amendment, playing a vital role in bringing the "Noble Experiment" to an end.

With the modest platform they commanded, and reinforced by their significant stature in the legal community, they undertook first to draft and encourage local and state bar associations to pass resolutions calling for the repeal of alcohol prohibition. Their success led the American Bar Association to call for repeal in 1928, following scores of city and state bar associations in all regions of the country which had adopted resolutions containing words and ideas cultivated, shaped and sharpened by the VCL.

This success was merely prelude to their stunning achievements several years later. Due in large part to the VCL's extraordinary contributions, the 18th Amendment was, in less than a year, struck from the Constitution. Repeal was a reality. People could drink, without filling the coffers of criminals and corrupting democratic institutions. Violence abated.

This is how it happened.

Climaxing decades of gathering hostility toward saloons and moral outrage over the general degeneracy and debauchery said to be flowing from bottles and kegs, the Constitution of the United States had been amended, effective 1920, to prohibit the manufacture and sale of "intoxicating liquors." The Volstead Act, the federal statute implementing the prohibition amendment, included beer in that category. At first, prohibition was cheered by its victorious supporters, and generally tolerated by others. But before long, unmistakable grumbling was heard in the cities. To meet the barely interrupted demand for alcohol, there sprang up bathtub ginworks and basement stills, discreet illegal supply networks, and secret, illegal bars called speakeasies.

Commerce in alcohol plunged underground, and soon fell under the control of thugs and gangsters. Violence often settled commercial differences as suppliers and distributors were denied the services of lawyers, insurance companies, and the civil courts. On the local level, widespread disobedience of the prohibition laws by otherwise law-abiding citizens produced numerous arrests. Courts were badly clogged, in large part because nearly all defendants demanded jury trials, confident that a jury of their peers would view their plight with sympathy.

With the growth of well-organized and serious national anti-prohibition groups like Americans Against the Prohibition Amendment and the Women's Organization for National Prohibition Reform, popular support for repeal grew geometrically during the 13 years of prohibition. In the midst of the 1932 presidential election support erupted.

It was summer. Millions were broken from economic depression, beleaguered by crime, corruption and violence... and they were thirsty.

As expected, the Republicans nominated the incumbent President, Herbert Hoover, who supported prohibition. The VCL made a stalwart effort to gain a repeal plank in the platform, taking the debate as far as the convention floor.

The situation was totally different with the Democrats. Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt of New York, the front-runner, had carefully avoided taking a position on repeal. At the convention a successful floor fight produced a prorepeal plank--drafted and defended by the VCL-in the Democratic platform which FDR unambiguously endorsed in his acceptance speech. "This convention wants repeal," he declared. "Your candidate wants repeal."

During the election campaign, FDR made one unequivocal speech endorsing repeal. Otherwise, both candidates successfully avoided the issue, despite--or perhaps because of--their having taken opposite positions. When the only thing standing in the way of repeal was the election of FDR, thousands of "wets" and scores of "wet" organizations moved solidly behind the Democrat. The message was clear: Roosevelt meant repeal, and repeal meant Roosevelt.

Public opinion demanded both, and Roosevelt triumphed in the election. The number of "wets" in Congress grew significantly, and the "damps" shrank. In nine states, voters passed referenda repealing the state prohibition laws, shifting the burden of prohibition enforcement in those states to the federal government. This is when the VCL stepped forward and took on the remarkable leadership and responsibility for which they were so uniquely equipped. It required no particular insight into the nature of democracy to know that when the weight of public opinion demanded repeal of prohibition, prohibition would be repealed. The question was how. A thorough and solid legal plan was essential.

For years, repeal advocates had urged that the repeal question be resolved by conventions in the states, which is one of two methods prescribed in the Constitution for ratifying amendments. Historically, though, this method had never been used. On every other occasion, constitutional amendments had been ratified by state legislatures. But state legislatures were notoriously "dry," being dominated by rural, fundamentalist interests, passionate in their defense of prohibition. The repeal resolution would have to bypass state legislatures and go to popularly elected conventions, if it were to succeed.

By whom were such conventions to be called? How were delegates to be chosen? When and where were they to convene? Who would preside? By what rules should the convention conduct itself' What rights and privileges would delegates have? How were conflicts between state and federal law to be resolved? Complicated questions, and neither Congress nor any state had spoken on these issues. Enter the VCL.

Conferring with eminent constitutional scholars, exhaustively researching law and history, circulating drafts of statutes, memoranda and briefs, the VCL quickly produced a prototype state statute which dealt with the organizational problems involved in setting up constitutional conventions in the states. Called "truly representative," the conventions were carefully designed to mirror exactly the preferences of voters by requiring candidates to declare themselves for or against repeal on the ballot. Thus the convention process became a two-step referendum: voters would issue orders to the delegates, and the delegates would carry them out. In no way were the conventions to be deliberative bodies; debate would not be allowed to frustrate the popular will.

Copies of the draft bills were sent to governors and legislative leaders in all states. Utilizing their impressive network of affiliate members throughout the 48 states, as well as their exquisite legal skills, the VCL lined up expert witnesses for legislative hearings, submitted thorough legal briefs, defended legal challenges, answered Constitutional questions, in short, prepared for the day that Congress would pass a repeal resolution and send it to the several states for ratification.

When Congress reconvened in January of 1933, it wasted no time responding to the "wet" mandate. By February 20, 1933, the repeal amendment was formally passed, calling for ratification by state conventions. In the flash of a mere nine and a half months, legislation setting up state conventions had been enacted, the conventions called, delegates elected and the conventions held. In 36 states, the requisite three quarters, the repeal of prohibition was ratified. The final roll-call vote, in Utah, was eagerly monitored by millions over a national radio broadcast; it is said that a national cheer could be heard at the moment of passage.

Nearly all the states that ratified the repeal resolution relied on the prototype statute promulgated by the VCL, either enacting it verbatim, or borrowing heavily from it.

Several hours after Utah ratified the 21st Amendment, while millions of Americans were celebrating, the VCL treasurer quietly balanced the books by making a final contribution from his own pocket in the amount of $6.66, and closed them permanently.

Who were they?

At its peak, the VCL claimed a total membership of approximately 3,500 affiliate lawyers from all states. The organization was managed, however, by a tight coterie of nine highly regarded and well-connected New York attorneys. For the entire term of its existence, the VCL was chaired by Joseph H. Choate, Jr., a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School, son of Theodore Roosevelt's ambassador to England, and an eminent Park Avenue lawyer. The organization's treasurer was Harrison Tweed, another Harvard/Harvard Law man, one of the country's most successful lawyers, and a prime mover in many important civic causes.

Choate and Tweed and seven other colleagues called themselves the Executive Committee, and prudently managed the affairs of the organization. While some may have called them elite, none would call them elitist. They aggressively solicited affiliates in every state and sought participation by as many lawyers as possible, starting with advertisements placed in lawyers' magazines. Every inquiry brought a thoughtful and deliberate response, as well as an appeal for financial support.

The executive committee hired an Executive Secretary, Mrs. Helena P. Rhoudy, who ran the national office, and visited many state capitals, enlisting local lawyers and political figures in the cause. Her dispatches back to New York ring of diplomacy at its best.

What motivated the members of the VCL? Their formal corporate charter, adopted in 1927, declared their grievances:


The 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act violate the basic principles of our law and government and encroach upon the powers properly reserved to the States and the people.

The attempt to enforce them has been productive of such evils and abuses as are necessarily incident to a violation of those principles, including

- disrespect for law
- obstruction of the due administration of justice
- corruption of public of officials
- abuse of legal process
- resort by the government to improper and illegal acts in the procurement of evidence; and
- infringement of such constitutional guarantees as immunity from double jeopardy and illegal search and seizure.

It would be wrong to credit only the VCL for the repeal of prohibition. Their work would not have mattered had there not been fast surging public opinion to repeal prohibition. Some have likened that surging opinion to a train, barreling toward a deep ravine. Had the VCL, some of whose members made their fortunes and reputations as railroad lawyers, not provided the legal engineering to design and erect a sturdy bridge over the ravine, the repeal effort may well have crashed in challenges, confusion and legal controversy.

When repeal was assured, the Chairman of the Board of the largest popular anti-prohibitionist organization, wrote a congratulatory letter to VCL Chairman Choate, observing, " What a remarkable victory it is, it saves the very foundations of our government, and no man can tell where we would have gone, or to what we would have fallen had not this repeal been brought about. "

The best historical account of repeal is Kyvig, David E., Repealing National Prohibition, the University of Chicago Press (Chicago and London), 1979. For more on the VCL and detailed treatment of the legal issues with which they contended, see Vose, Clement E., Constitutional Change: Amendment Politics and Supreme Court Litigation Since 1900, Lexington Books, D.C., Heath and Company, Lexington, Massachusetts, Toronto, London, 1972. Professor Vose acquired and catalogued a collection of VCL papers now in the possession of the Olin Library, Wesleyan University, for access to which the new VCL is grateful.



The New York City Bar Association is having an event on the issue of physician prosecution related to prescribed substances and overdose.
May, 26th, 2010, 6:30 to 9pm.  Admission is free.
The Association of the Bar of the City of New York, 42 West 44th Street, New York

Medical Treatment or Conspiracy?  The Physician's Dilemma in Treating Celebrities

This symposium will cover the criminal and civil liability and ethical dilemmas facing doctors when treating the affluent, influential or famous patient.  With a case loosely based upon recent celebrity deaths due to overdose, a panel of medical & legal experts will engage in a town hall-type discussion about how and why doctors find themselves in trouble with the law, and what their best defense might be.

Panel Participants:

Anne Prunty, Assistant District Attorney, New York County;

Roy Nemerson, Deputy Counsel, New York State Office of Professional Medical Conduct;

Michael Kelton and Alfredo Mendez from Abrams, Fensterman, Fensterman, Eisman, Greenberg, Formato & Einiger, LLP (physician defense);

William Hunter, M.D., Attending Psychiatrist, Woodhull Medical Center of New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation

Russell K. Portenoy, M.D.,  Chairman, Department of Pain Medicine and Palliative Care, Beth Israel Medical Center, New York

Kenneth Prager, M.D. Professor of Clinical Medicine, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and Director of Clinical Ethics and Chairperson of the Medical Ethics Committee at New York Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia University Medical Center


The moderator of this event is Margaret Mayo, Esq., Gaffin & Mayo, P.C.

Join us for First Thursday Seattle Art Walk at our office at the Pioneer Building, located at
600 First Avenue, Suite 302, Seattle, Washington (upstairs from the Underground Tour overlooking Pioneer Square)

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010, 3:00pm to 6:00pm

Every first Thursday of the month, Pioneer Square comes alive for Art Walk.  We hope you'll come down, check out the art, and stop in at our office for a few snacks, drinks and lively conversation about drug policy reform.  This month we will discuss the past legislative session and start looking forward to the next session, especially what we would want to see in legislation establishing dispensaries.


05.13.10 Richard M. Evans, Esq., co-founder of the VCL, has important letter to the editor published in the Wall Street Journal emphasizing the historical importance of the repeal of prohibition.

04.22.10 The New England Journal of Medicine publishes an editorial by two law professors from the University of Massachusetts, Medical Marijuana and the Law, arguing that the federal government should change the status of marijuana so more research can be done.

09.29.09 The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers releases a critical report declaring "drug courts endanger rights" and "block access to needed treatment for drug users." America's Problem-Solving Courts: The Criminal Costs of Treatment and the Case for Reform.

08.14.09 The VCL holds an open house for the grand opening of its new headquarters in Suite 302 of the Pioneer Building overlooking Pioneer Square in Seattle, WA.

06.18.09 The Massachusetts Bar Association Drug Policy Task Force releases a new report, The Failure of the War on Drugs: Charting a New Course for the Commonwealth.

06.01.09 The VCL moves to its new office in the Pioneer Building, overlooking Pioneer Square in Seattle, at 600 First Avenue in Suite 302.

05.01.09 The VCL holds a Law Day Reception at the Culture Center in New York, honoring Judge Robert W. Sweet with the Joseph H. Choate, Jr. Award for Leadership.

PLEASURE, PAIN, PHYSICIANS AND POLICE: The law of controlled substances and the practice of medicine, program presented by the New York City Bar Association's Committee on Drugs and the Law and the Health Law Committee, with speakers: Marcus Reidenberg, MD, FACP; Joseph Spillane, PhD; Buford Terrell, JD, LLM.

The New York City Bar Association's Committee on Drugs and the Law releases A Wiser Course: Ending Drug Prohibition, Fifteen Years Later.

The Sentencing Project released a report assessing the impact of drug courts, Drug Courts: A Review of the Evidence.

The Pew Center released a report, One in 31: The Long Reach of American Corrections, showing that 7.3 million, or 1 in every 31 U.S. adults, is behind bars, on parole or on probation.

The Latin American Commission on Drugs and Democracy, which includes the former presidents of Mexico, Colombia and Brazil, released a statement, Drugs and Democracy: Towards a Paradigm Shift, declaring the War on Drugs a failure and calling for a meaningful debate on alternatives.

The ABA Commission on Effective Criminal Sanctions and the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia have released a new study, Internal Exile: Collateral Consequences of Conviction in Federal Laws and Regulations.

Article by our President, Eric E. Sterling, on a way to stimulate the economy: stop locking up and saddling so many of our citizens with felony records so that we may increase their spending power.

You can now BECOME A MEMBER of the VCL at set membership levels or DONATE and help support the VCL's mission of creating and expanding the dialogue examining the efficacy of the war on drugs within the legal, medical and other professional communities. JOIN NOW!

"No one should be stigmatized or discriminated against because of their dependence on drugs."
-United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Our new website is live. Welcome!



The VCL is an association of lawyers and judges whose members share strong misgivings about the wisdom and consequences of America's perpetual drug war. While favoring no specific drug control policies, the VCL seeks to promote, within and by the legal profession, informed discussion about the objectives of the drug war and its costs to our cherished institutions of liberty and justice. This is the view of one of our founders, former United States Attorney General, Elliot Richardson.

The VCL is modeled after a group of the same name which played a leading role in the repeal of the 18th Amendment in 1933. VCL members see in modern drug prohibition many of the same harmful and unintended consequences associated with alcohol prohibition. Like our predecessors, we seek to work quietly through bar association committees, encouraging study and discussion of drug policy, especially its impact on criminal justice and Constitutional law.

Please browse the rest of this site and sign the open letter from lawyers and judges, and urge your colleagues to do the same. We hope you will lend your support and participation.

Thank you.

Eric E. Sterling

Thank you to Logo Bee for our logo.