Friend of the Court


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On the Front Lines with the First Amendment

Floyd Abrams

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America's preeminent First Amendment lawyer speaks out on the most controversial free-speech issues of our time

Since 1971, when the Pentagon Papers were leaked to the New York Times and furious debate over First Amendment rights ensued, free-speech cases have emerged in rapid succession. Floyd Abrams has been on the front lines of nearly every one of these major cases, which is also to say that, more than any other person, he has forged this country’s legal understanding of free speech. Litigating everything from national-security and prior-restraint issues to controversies concerning the law of libel and attempts by local officials to censor art, Abrams has worked devotedly to protect the First Amendment, the “crown jewel” of America’s Constitution.
This collection of Abrams’s writings gathers speeches, articles, debates, briefs, oral arguments, and testimony from his entire career. The writings illuminate topics of ongoing import: WikiLeaks, the correctness of the Citizens United case, journalist shield laws, and, not least, the responsibilities of the press. An exceptional writer and a brilliant thinker, Abrams offers a unique perspective on the First Amendment and the unparalleled rights it confers.

Floyd Abrams is senior counsel in the New York law firm of Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP, an adjunct professor at New York University School of Law, and author of several books, including The Soul of the First Amendment (Yale University Press, 2017). Abrams has argued frequently in the Supreme Court in First Amendment cases ranging from the Pentagon Papers case to Citizens United.

“Floyd Abrams is without doubt the most prominent free speech and free press advocate of our times.  Maybe even of any times.  Abrams' book collects a large component of the historical record of the formative period in making the First Amendment what it is today. It is very important, very engaging, and very illuminating about a particular dimension of American free speech and free press culture." —Frederick Schauer, David and Mary Harrison Distinguished Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of Law, author of Thinking Like a Lawyer: A New Introduction to Legal Reasoning (Harvard, 2009)

"To say that Floyd Abrams has been the nation’s premier litigator on First Amendment issues for the past forty years is to understate the case:  no one else even comes close. His towering contributions to defending and expanding First Amendment principles have been made not only in the courtroom, but also through his writings, which are collected in this impressively broad, varied compendium. While these pieces are as persuasive as one would expect from a legendary litigator, they are also as thoughtful as one would expect from a free speech philosopher, and as well-written as one would expect from a journalist."--Nadine Strossen, Former President, American Civil Liberties Union

"Almost all the enduring thinking about the freedom of speech has been done in response to struggles of the moment -- by essayists such as Milton, Madison, and Mill, or judges such as Hand, Holmes, and Brandeis.  Like his illustrious predecessors, Floyd Abrams, probably the finest First Amendment lawyer in the nation's history, here demonstrates how ideas that are born of contentious experience can have a unique clarity and power on that account." -Vincent Blasi, Columbia Law School

“Vigorous, principled defenses of freedom of expression from a long career in the legal trenches.”—Kirkus Reviews

“In his long career, Abrams has been involved in most of the major cases challenging and defining free speech, from the Pentagon Papers to Citizens United to WikiLeaks. In this highly accessible collection, . . . Abrams explores the landscape of free-speech issues in the U.S. during the past 50 years.”—Booklist
“This collection from the First Amendment lawyer gathers speeches, articles, briefs and testimony from his career, which includes some of the most controversial free-speech cases of the past four decades.”—Los Angeles Times
“An immensely informative and provocative collection of writings in which Abrams weighs in on a wide array of free speech issues, including libel laws, pornography, ‘hate speech,’ WikiLeaks, Internet ‘publications,’ and the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in Citizens United v. FEC.”—Glenn Altschuler, Cornell Alumni Magazine
“In the course of his law practice, Abrams has also developed and from time to time shared with the rest of us—in the form of articles, speeches, television appearances, and published interviews—his own conception of what the ‘freedom of speech, or of the press’ means and the threats it faces, a conception born of practical experience and much more than a little hard thinking. Friend of the Court is a compendium of the best of that thinking. . . . Even if you read some (or many) of these pieces when they were first published (as I have), the insights they contain are well worth revisiting. If you have not previously been exposed to Abrams’s writings about what the First Amendment protects and why, you will be hard pressed to find a better or more persuasive analysis.”—Lee Levine, Yale Alumni Magazine
“For anyone—conservatives very much included—interested in the continuing controversies surrounding the First Amendment, [Abrams’] writings are an excellent place to start. . . . In defending the First Amendment from all comers, he has the virtue of intellectual consistency, which his example shows is not always a hobgoblin and not always the inhabitant of small minds.”—Gabriel Schoenfeld, Weekly Standard
“Abrams is, in addition to being a great advocate and legal scholar, a fine writer. . . . The consistency of Abrams’s arguments is refreshing and very much in keeping with his absolutist position where First Amendment issues are concerned.”—Jim Lafferty, Los Angeles Review of Books
ISBN: 9780300205633
Publication Date: June 24, 2014
488 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4