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Floyd Abrams

William J. Brennan, Jr. Defense of Freedom Award Recipient, 1999

Floyd Abrams, Partner, Cahill Gordon & Reindel; William J. Brennan, Jr. Visiting Professor on First Amendment Issues, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism

Abrams_photo"He is to First Amendment rights what Clarence Darrow was to the rights of the accused," said Fred Friendly of Floyd Abrams, a partner the New York law firm of Cahill Gordon & Reindel and the William J. Brennan, Jr. Visiting Professor on First Amendment issues at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

Floyd Abrams's legal defense of the media is unparalleled both in its breadth and variety. Abrams's first media client was NBC, and his first significant First Amendment brief was for NBC, as amicus, in In Re Pappas before Massachusetts's highest court. Since then and the soon-to-follow Pentagon Papers case, in which he was co-counsel for The New York Times, Abrams has represented ABC, CBS, NBC, Business Week, Time, The Nation, Reader's Digest, the Providence Journal, Random House, Alfred A. Knopf, and many other media in trials, appeals, and amicus efforts.

A sample of Floyd Abrams's prodigious litigation output includes his representation of Landmark Communications in 1978, when the Supreme Court held that the press could not be prosecuted for publishing truthful confidential information about a judge's fitness for office; of CBS in a copyright action by the estate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. challenging CBS's use of its footage of the 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech; of Time in libel litigation arising out of its reporting about the Church of Scientology, of Business Week in fraud litigation based upon its newsgathering and investigative reporting on credit reporting services; of Nina Totenberg and National Public Radio in the 1992 "leak" investigation conducted by the United States Senate arising out of the confirmation hearing of Justice Clarence Thomas; and just this fall, of the Brooklyn Museum of Art in its efforts to prevent New York City from eliminating finding, removing the Board of Directors, and evicting the Museum from its century-old site because of the mayor's ire with a painting of the Virgin Mary he found offensive, just to name a very few.

Floyd Abrams has taught legions of law and journalism students about the First Amendment through his teaching at Yale and Columbia.  He has participated in numerous Fred Friendly Seminars, broadcast on public television, that served to educate millions of Americans on the complexities of First Amendment issues.  He has written countless articles for popular media on First Amendment and media matters, including such publications as The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, the Dallas Morning News, and The New York Times Magazine.  In the many television appearances he has made over the years, Floyd Abrams has brought to the general public discussion of First Amendment issues the same genuine, thoughtful, and literate style that has made him one of the foremost legal advocates in the nation.  And as many LDRC members know, he has trained no small number of lawyers at Cahill Gordon & Reindel who themselves have gone on to work in First Amendment and media law throughout the country.

There is perhaps no one else who has written for, taught, and spoken to so many in such a persuasive and intelligent manner about the First Amendment as Floyd Abrams.

In 1998, Abrams was the recipient of the William J. Brennan, Jr. ,Award for outstanding contribution to public discourse, the Learned Hand Award of the American Jewish Committee, and the Thurgood Marshall Award of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York.  In 1997, Abrams was awarded the Milton S. Gould Award for outstanding appellate advocacy by the Office of the Appellate Defender in New York.  Previously he had received awards from, among others, the American Jewish Congress, Catholic University, the New York and Philadelphia Chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists, Sigma Delta Chi, the New York Civil Liberties Union, the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, and the National Broadcast Editorial Association.  The American Bar Association awarded Abrams its Certificate of Merit for his article published in The New York Times Magazine with respect to the information policies of the Reagan Administration. The article, entitled "The New Effort to Control Information," was described by the ABA as a "noteworthy contribution to public understanding of the American system of law and justice." This was not his first such award from the ABA, he also was awarded the Ross Essay Prize of the American Bar Association for his study, "What are the Rights Protected by the Ninth Amendment," published in 1966.

Abrams served as Chairman of Mayor Edward Koch's Committee on Appointments, New York City, as well as Chairman of the New York State Zenger Commemoration Planning Committee.  Previously, he sewed as the Chairman of the Communications Committee of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, as well as Chairman of the Committee on Freedom of Speech and of the Press of the Individual Rights Section of the American Bar Association and of the Committee on Freedom of Expression of the Litigation Section of the American Bar Association.

Abrams is a graduate of Cornell University and the Yale Law School. He was a visiting lecturer at the Yale Law School from 1974 to 1980 and 1986 to 1989 and at the Columbia Law School from 1981 to 1985.

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