Floyd Abrams

Floyd Abrams

Infobox Person
name = Floyd Abrams

image_size = 200px
caption = Floyd Abrams in 2006.
birth_date = birth date and age|1936|7|9
birth_place =
death_date =
death_place =
known_for = Several First Amendment cases
alma_mater = Cornell University
Yale Law School
employer = Cahill Gordon & Reindel
occupation = Attorney
nationality = flag|United States

Floyd Abrams (born July 9, 1936) is an American attorney. He is an expert on Constitutional Law, and many arguments in the briefs he has written before the United States Supreme Court have been adopted as United States Constitutional interpretative law as it relates to the First Amendment and free speech. He is the "William J. Brennan Jr. Visiting Professor" at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. Abrams argued for "The New York Times" and Judith Miller in the CIA leak grand jury investigation. His memoir is "Speaking Freely" (2005) ISBN 9780670033751. Abrams joined Cahill Gordon & Reindel in 1963, and became a partner in 1970.


Abrams earned his undergraduate degree from Cornell University in 1956, and his "Juris Doctor" from Yale Law School in 1960. He lives in New York City. He is the father of MSNBC's Dan Abrams. He is a member of the Constitution Project's Liberty and Security Committee. [http://www.constitutionproject.org/libertyandsecurity/members.cfm?categoryId=3]

Early career and legal scholarship

From 1961-63, Abrams clerked for Judge Paul Leahy of the United States District Court for the District of Delaware. He returned to Yale as a Visiting Lecturer from 1974-80, and again from 1986-89. He was also a Visiting Lecturer at Columbia Law School from 1981-85.

Important First Amendment Cases

Abrams appearance before the Supreme Court as an advocate of the First Amendment has put him in a class of prominent and still-working legal scholars who have shaped American understanding of their fundamental rights under the United States Constitution. In his 2005 book "Speaking Freely", he outlines his knowledge of and perspective on these influential cases (listed in the main article above). Abrams said these cases showcase the work that has been done on free speech in the United States. [Floyd Abrams, "Speaking Freely" (2005)] Fellow Supreme Court attorney Lee Levine, in a book review, wrote that "the modern history of the freedom of the press in this country is intimately associated with the career and work of Floyd Abrams." His career matured in the late 1960s, right after the Supreme Court decided "New York Times Co. v. Sullivan" (1964). He has worked on the Pentagon Papers and Branzburg v. Hayes (1972), to "Landmark Communications v. Virginia" (1978) and "Smith v. Daily Mail Publishing Co." (1979), to "Nebraska Press Association v. Stuart" (1976). He has defended numerous clients, including the Brooklyn Museum of Art from Rudolph Giuliani over the Sensation exhibition, NBC from Wayne Newton, and Al Franken from a trademark lawsuit from FOX News Channel over the use of the phrase "Fair and Balanced" in the title of his book. [Lee Levine. [http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/faclibrary/bookreview.aspx?id=24 "Speaking Freely: Trials of the First Amendment"] , via FirstAmendmentCenter.org]


*William J. Brennan, Jr. Award for outstanding contribution to public discourse (1998)
*Learned Hand Award of the American Jewish Committee
*Thurgood Marshall Award of the New York State Bar Association
*William J. Brennan, Jr. Award of the Libel Defense Resource Center (1999)
*Milton S. Gould Award for outstanding appellate advocacy by the New York Office of the Appellate Defender (1997)
*Ross Essay Prize of the American Bar Association
*Elected to American Academy of Arts & Sciences (2006)
*Certificate of Merit from the American Bar Association for his article "The New Effort to Control Information", published in "The New York Times".
*Ranked among the top two leading trial lawyers in New York for First Amendment Cases by "Chambers USA: Leading Lawyers for Business" (2006)
*"Who's Who in American Law"
*"100 Most Influential Lawyers in America" by "The National Law Journal" (2006)


*In a column on "Slate" entitled "Memo to Cooper and Miller: Fire Floyd Abrams's. Hire Bruce Sanford", Jack Schafer felt Abrams First Amendment argument was weaker than others on behalf of the reporters in the Valerie Plame affair. Judges David Sentelle and David Tatel "manhandled" Abrams during the December 8, 2004 oral arguments before the appeals court. In the majority opinion, Judge Sentelle found Abrams' assertion that a First Amendment privilege protects Matthew Cooper and Judith Miller from the subpoena to lack merit. They ordered both reporters to talk to the grand jury about their confidential sources or face jail for contempt, which Miller ultimately did. "Maybe a First Amendment legend isn't what this case called for in the first place," said Shafer. "Maybe Cooper and Miller would have been better served by having a criminal lawyer who knows how to bargain." Shafer thought Abrams would never be successful at the Supreme Court: "...my guess is that they won't [agree to hear the case] if it's argued on First Amendment grounds, preferring to let their "Branzburg" precedent stand." [Jack Schafer, [http://www.slate.com/id/2113570/ "Memo to Cooper and Miller: Fire Floyd Abrams. Hire Bruce Sanford."] , February 15, 2005, Slate.com.]
*"As a narrative matter, ["Speaking Freely"] fails to explain how exactly Floyd Abrams, revered champion of speech, could possibly have lost the [McCain-Feingold] case. The answer, for those readers left puzzled by Abrams's account, is not merely that the arguments on the other side that soft money created the indelible appearance of a corrupt political system were immeasurably stronger than he allows; they were also presented masterfully by the solicitor general's office, led by Theodore B. Olson, and by lawyers for the congressional sponsors of the campaign-finance bill, led by Olson's Democratic predecessor, Seth P. Waxman. Indeed, much of the real story behind how McCain-Feingold came to be upheld is that Abrams and Starr were simply outperformed as lawyers. It may be asking too much to expect Abrams to tell that particular story." Benjamin Wittes, "The Washington Post's Book World". [ [http://www.amazon.com/dp/0670033758 Excerpted at Amazon.com] ]

Quotes by Abrams

*"I really believe that a lawyer - no matter how good - if he or she is really worth their weight in salt, they will lose some cases because, after all, it is not really one of those secretive things that not everything is decided by who your lawyer is." [ [http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/f/floyd_abrams.html Floyd Abrams quotes at BrainyQuote.com] ]
*"In August 1967 I spent a few days in New Delhi, visiting a friend who had been a law school classmate seven years earlier. She was a princess—a genuine one, from a still-powerful regal family. In New York, when we were studying together, I had taken her to a Yankee game. In New Delhi she reciprocated by taking me to her fortune-teller—not just hers, but that of a bevy of Indian leaders, including former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter and successor as prime minister, Indira Gandhi.... Before I was thirty-five, he said, I would go to my country's capital to work on something that was important. The work, he said, would make me famous. It was not the sort of prediction that one entirely forgets. I was then thirty-one." [Floyd Abrams, "Speaking Freely", Page 1 (2005)]
*"I then described two of my favorite First Amendment cases, the first of which was the 1966 Supreme Court ruling in "Mills v. Alabama".... The other case was commenced by a Miami labor leader, Pat Tornillo, who was a candidate for the Florida House of Representatives. The "Miami Herald" had published editorials criticizing Tornillo; the union leader had responded by demanding that the "Herald" publish, verbatim, replies he had written to each editorial." ["Speaking Freely", Pages 232-33.]

Quotes about Abrams

*"Ask someone to name a First Amendment lawyer. If they answer, one-hundred percent of the time the answer will be the same: Floyd Abrams. Then ask them to name another such lawyer. The answer: silence. It is a sign of the times that the name Floyd Abrams is synonymous with the First Amendment in a way that virtually no other name is." First Amendment Center. [ [http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/faclibrary/about.aspx?id=12891 Mr. First Amendment -- Forthcoming Book By Floyd Abrams] , via FirstAmendmentCenter.org]
*" [Floyd Abrams is the] most significant First Amendment lawyer of our age." Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. [ [http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/product-description/0670033758/ Amazon.com] ]

elected writings

*"Speaking Freely: Trials of the First Amendment", (Viking Press, 2005) ISBN 9780670033751.

Book reviews for "Speaking Freely"

*"Most illuminating are Abrams's detailed explanations of the legal and psychological tactics he has used before the Supreme Court.... Abrams rarely steps back from his courtroom reconstructions to make a more comprehensive argument for his nearly absolutist reading of the First Amendment. Only in describing his fight against the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law does Abrams reason more broadly, and his powerful argument makes a reader wish the whole book had been more expansive." "Publishers Weekly". [ [http://www.amazon.com/dp/product-description/0670033758 Amazon.com Page for Speaking Freely] .]
*"Unfortunately, Abrams is far more fair-minded where the argument against a free-speech claim is weak than he is where it's compelling.... This is a serious flaw, and not just because it doesn't do justice to a complicated issue [like campaign finance reform] .... It isn't too much, however, to expect as straightforward an account of the McCain-Feingold case as Abrams offers of other cases in the book. In general, his charming, engaging and often compelling book would have been stronger if he at any point revealed any real intellectual or emotional distance from a client's litigating position. Not all First Amendment claims are created equal." Benjamin Wittes, "The Washington Post's Book World". [Amazon.com]

ee also

*Cahill Gordon & Reindel
*List of prominent cases argued by Floyd Abrams
*Pentagon Papers


External links

#google video|4621223296295545527|Floyd Abrams on Nightline
# [http://www.eyeonbooks.com/ibp.php?ISBN=0670033758 Media file of Floyd Abrams talking about "Speaking Freely"]

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