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Martin Garbus
Martin Garbus ( is one of the country’s leading trial lawyers. Mr. Garbus represents his clients in the courts and in the media. He has appeared before the United States Supreme Court as well as the highest state and federal courts in the nation. Time magazine has named him “legendary… one of the best trial lawyers in the country,” while Newsweek, The National Law Journal, and other media agree that Mr. Garbus is America’s “most prominent First Amendment lawyer,” with an “extraordinarily diverse practice.”

His clients have ranged from Valclev Havel to Al Pacino to Igor Stravinsky to Philip Roth. His areas of expertise range from copyright securities to murder cases in jurisdictions from the United States, to London, to China.

He was elected to the New York University Law School Hall of Fame, and also received their Alumni Award. Mr. Garbus has also been commemorated with induction to the Hunter College Hall of Fame, among numerous other honors.

On May 23rd, 2012, Martin Garbus received the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship Global Leadership Award. The award presentator Anton Botha noted Martin Garbus’ courage and his extraordinary contribution to law both in the United States and abroad, calling him a “hero” in many foreign countries for his work in courtrooms throughout the world, and also noted that he is renowned all over the world for his commitment to the rule of law and the protection of speech and action that guarantees individual rights.

He is presently representing, amongst others, five men charged with killing four Cuban Americans in a Miami Federal Court. Constitutional arguments, including First Amendment arguments, will be held during the summer.

Mr. Garbus represented employees in a class action employment discrimination suit challenging President Bush’s “faith based” initiative, and flight attendants in a labor dispute against their union and American Airlines. Mr. Garbus also took on a case in New York State Court in early 2005 that involved damage to a $20,000,000 painting by one of America’s greatest artists.

Mr. Garbus represented individuals who appeared in cases looking into steroid use in organized sports. He also defended murder cases in Nebraska, Minnesota, South Dakota, and New York, as well as white collar cases, including defending one of America’s leading scientists against a claim by IBM that he stole their secret computer codes. “On behalf of Miramax, he brought a suit to declare unconstitutional the MPAA ratings system.”

Martin Garbus represents authors in the Author’s Guild v. Google suit. Pioneering the legal future of the digital age, Mr. Garbus represented Eric Corley, The Electronic Frontier Foundation in the Open Source Movement in the first copyright case to be tried under the new Digital Millennium Copyright Act. That landmark case, involving the Motion Picture Association of America, became a battle where First Amendment and copyright values clashed, permanently affecting the art, movie, music, and DVD industry, including the rights of MP3 and iPod owners, leading to the new internet landscape.

Mr. Garbus has represented Lenny Bruce against obscenity charges, best-selling writer Robert Sam Anson in a lawsuit claiming Michael Eisner and Walt Disney tried to stop the publication of a book critical of them, and Penguin Books against attempts by Lawrence Walsh, Special Council to Iran-Contra, to stop the publication of Jeffrey Tobin’s book on Iran-Contra. In a case which was tried in Illinois, he successfully stopped the unauthorized publication of the short stories of author John Cheever.

Mr. Garbus has earned his distinguished reputation as a result of his unique and aggressive approach in the courtroom. He is a master at every aspect of trial, from jury selection to cross-examination, to closing arguments. His cases have established new legal precedents in the United States Supreme Court and Appellate Courts throughout the country. He was also counsel in Ashton v. Kentucky, a Supreme Court that struck down all criminal libel laws, and Jacobellis v. Ohio, where the Supreme Court for the first time defined “national community standards.”

Arguing before the United States Supreme Court after a trial in Alabama, he won a unanimous 9-0 decision striking down laws in 14 states that had disenfranchised 1,000,000 people. He filed in New York Federal Court Goldberg v. Kelly, a 5-4 decision of the United States Supreme Court that is arguably the most important due process case of the 20th century.

He won a four-month class action securities fraud suit, successfully representing plaintiffs against one of America’s largest corporations. He also won a jury trial in a Mississippi Federal Court on behalf of Britain’s Channel 4 and the Public Broadcasting System involving claims that they used obscene photographs.

Mr. Garbus’ passion for protecting the interests of his clients has been widely recognized. He was appointed to serve as the lawyer and/or executor and/or trustee of numerous estates, including those of Marilyn Monroe, Igor Stravinsky, John Cheever, and Margaret Mitchell. Assuming an active role as guardian, he represented the Stravinsky Estate in a precedent-setting suit contesting the late author’s will and the Mitchell Estate in a case involving a parody of “Gone With the Wind.”
Mr. Garbus also represented Public Enemy No. 1, a hip-hop and rap group, for whom he won a copyright suit against the Coors Beer Company that wrongfully sampled its work in beer advertisements. He represented Miramax when the Motion Picture Association of America tried to give several of its films an “R” rating, tried and won before a federal jury the Isley Brothers’ accounting and infringement suit against Motown Records, and defended Terry McMillan in a libel suit. In addition, Mr. Garbus defended Peter Matthiessen and Penguin Books in libel suits filed in South Dakota and Minnesota by South Dakota Governor and Senator William Janklow, and the FBI over allegations that the FBI wrongfully coerced testimony through physical abuse and that the Governor had raped an Indian woman.

In a civil antitrust action he successfully represented independent movie houses that sued the motion picture studios because of preferential treatment given to movie chains.

He also successfully represented Pia Pera, author of “Lo’s Diary,” in a suit brought by the Estate of Vladimir Nabokov to block publication of her novel and, through his former law firm, defended Scholastic Books, the publisher of the “Harry Potter” series, and NBA and Major League Baseball players seeking arbitration of their contracts.

Mr. Garbus has won freedom of speech suits against the U.S. government and defended numerous authors and publishers charged with defamation and libel. He defended an injunction suit filed in California against Spike Lee to prevent the release of “Malcolm X,” and defended a suit against a trustee of the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance involving copyright infringement of choreographed work.

During his legal career, Mr. Garbus has also represented and advocated on behalf of political dissidents such as Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel, Daniel Ellsberg, and Andrei Sakharov. On behalf of Sakharov, and other Russian dissidents, he smuggled a list of political prisoners and their awful jail conditions out of the Soviet Union, personally delivering it in January 1980, two weeks before the inauguration to then-President Jimmy Carter, who acknowledged this document as the beginning of his new American human rights policy.

A frequent television and radio commentator, he is the author of six books (a seventh on the way), and hundreds of articles. He taught at Columbia, Yale, and other universities in America, as well as in China for three years at Tsinghua and Renmin law schools in Beijing. He was formerly Chairman of the Committee to Abolish Capital Punishment, and Co-Director of President Lyndon Johnson’s Center on Social Policy and Law at Columbia.

Entries by Martin Garbus

Disbar the Judge and the Lawyers

(127) Comments | Posted December 29, 2014 | 3:27 PM

Dick Cheney and other CIA personnel have a very good defense to any prosecution; they rely on the legal opinions, now called "torture memos," of attorney general Alberto Gonzales and those under him, John Yoo and Jay Bybee.

Even if we will not prosecute Cheney and the CIA, we...

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The Military Industrial Complex: We Know It Just Didn't Stick -- It Was Our Fault

(99) Comments | Posted July 19, 2013 | 3:04 PM

The NSA website today and for the past many months states that it has the capacity, and is looking into, intercepting all domestic communications as well all foreign and military communications. In Oak Bluff, Utah, the new NSA site, two million square feet, the largest spy plant in the world,...

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Five Judges in Black Who Think White

(167) Comments | Posted June 25, 2013 | 1:27 PM

In August 1968, three years after the Voting Rights Act was passed, Henrietta Wright began her testimony on August 10th in the first voting rights damage suit in a Federal United States District Court in a Mississippi courtroom. She was suing Sheriff John Wages, the Sheriff who brutally beat her,...

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Dangerous, Not Foolish: The Citizens United Case

(458) Comments | Posted June 26, 2012 | 6:22 PM

On Monday the Supreme Court reaffirmed the Citizens United Case. When I look at the Supreme Court's words and thoughts in the Citizens United Case, I think of other statements from the past, made by prominent figures, regarding controversial issues.

  • "Everything that can be invented has been...

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Breaking the 'Golden Shield'

(2) Comments | Posted July 20, 2009 | 10:25 AM

The torture started with Bush, Cheney and their lawyers. The prosecutions must start with the lawyers who gave the legal cover, the "Golden Shield," to both the Bush officials and the line of command that led to those who performed the horrendous act on the ground. At the present time,...

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Murder Threats and the First Amendment

(136) Comments | Posted July 7, 2009 | 11:16 AM

A very important First Amendment case, one that may soon reach the Supreme Court, is beginning its legal path.

Here's how it started. On June 2, 2009, Hal Turner, a radio talk show host considered by civil rights organizations to be a white supremacist, wrote on his blog that three...

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Obama Falsely Shouts Fire

(104) Comments | Posted June 29, 2009 | 12:18 PM

It is more than coincidence that an HBO film on free speech, Shouting Fire, dealing with the Bush attempt to stop free speech is on tonight.

Obama's campaign promise was for a transparent government, yet this past Friday, after 3pm, hoping to avoid the weekend news cycle, his administration...

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The Lesson of Sonia Sotomayor for Barack Obama

(5) Comments | Posted June 1, 2009 | 11:07 AM

It took Nixon to go to China. If any Democratic president prior to Nixon had tried that, he would have been vilified. Obama has just made a wonderful Supreme Court nomination.

Obama varies between being a pragmatist and a man of principle. Sonia Sotomayor is a slam dunk. He...

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Releasing All the Torture Photos Immediately Will Probably Save American Lives

(183) Comments | Posted May 28, 2009 | 12:02 PM

Major General Taguba, who retired in January 2007 who supports the President's decision not to release the photographs, today said, "These pictures show torture, rape and every indecency."

He described the pictures more specifically. Journalists who saw the classified photographs are also starting to tell us more.

Obama should...

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Warren, Black, Marshall, Douglas -- Obama Got It Right. Hooray.

(19) Comments | Posted May 26, 2009 | 4:35 PM

Some of the criticism being leveled against Sonia Sotomayor is that her opinions aren't intellectual enough, that she is not intellectual enough in her legal approaches, that she's written no legal decisions that will live forever, and that her scholarship, writing and books are second-rate.

The law, notwithstanding what academics...

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Obama is Right Not to Trust Us: All the Torture Photos Should Be Immediately Released

(10) Comments | Posted May 21, 2009 | 3:39 PM

Obama is wrong again to change track on the torture photos.

First of all, they are going to come out anyway, one way or another. We know that. Material like this that is suppressed will come out. It may take weeks or months, but it always gets out. There are...

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There is No Need for Wretched Un-American Military Commissions

(7) Comments | Posted May 19, 2009 | 2:47 PM

The changes that Obama is suggesting are little more than giving the defendants an aspirin.
The main reason urged for the continuance of the military courts is that they will permit hearsay testimony that a federal court will not, and that they will be more sensitive to classified information....

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Obama's Next Appointee -- Part II

(3) Comments | Posted May 18, 2009 | 10:37 AM

Many facts are overlooked in the Supreme Court nominating process. There are always some unexpected divisions on the Court. For example, in the free speech area, Justice Scalia's positions are often more protective of First Amendment values than Democratic moderates. For example, in last week's Supreme Court FCC case involving...

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How Can You Not Have Bush, Cheney and Gonzales Prosecuted?

(96) Comments | Posted May 13, 2009 | 1:09 PM

The roles of Bush, Cheney and Gonzales in the torture process was always less clear than the roles of the lawyers who justified it -- Jay Bybee, John Yoo and David Addington. No longer.

The question is no longer, should you, or can you, prosecute Bush, Cheney and Gonzales for...

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Obama's Next Appointee

(0) Comments | Posted May 12, 2009 | 11:31 AM

Part I
President Barack Obama, because of Justice Souter's anticipated resignation, has a wonderful chance to begin to shape the next few decades in this country. It would be a tragic mistake for him to raise the illusion of bipartisanship as an excuse not to fight for the best...

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Obama's Greatest Mistake

(35) Comments | Posted May 4, 2009 | 11:06 AM

President Barack Obama has a wonderful chance to begin to shape the next few decades in this country.

As Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush before him, he has an opportunity to shape the Supreme Court in a new, dramatic way. He may have as many as three appointments this...

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The Times May Be Changing

(29) Comments | Posted April 3, 2009 | 3:13 PM

Now six years after Iraq started, nearly one hundred days into the new presidency, more and more information is coming out about the involvement of the Bush people in Iraq-related criminal acts. The legal memos and the statements of tortured detainees are only the beginning of what will...

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Newt Gingrich Got It Right: The Battle Over the Courts

(13) Comments | Posted March 18, 2009 | 3:58 PM

President Barack Obama's team is continuing the mistakes of prior domestic presidents in his federal judicial selections. He is seeking, as President Clinton did, in the name (and the illusion) of bipartisanship, to nominate experienced moderate judges.

This is a disaster. The Republicans know better and have known better for...

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The Bush Lawbreakers Should be Criminally Prosecuted -- Commissions Don't Do It

(30) Comments | Posted March 9, 2009 | 3:33 PM

It's really quite simple. Truth and Reconciliation commissions, Congressional committees and blue ribbon commissions like the 9/11 Commission, are not deterrents to torture, illegal surveillance or lawyers on the Justice Department who attempted to justify the torture. They have a very limited function.

But they don't punish anyone; don't...

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Twice Wrong on Obama

(0) Comments | Posted July 27, 2008 | 7:41 PM

Earlier, I wrote in these pages that Obama's election along with a solid Democratic majority in the Senate could lead to a dramatic change in the Supreme Court. I envisioned him appointing men and women whose political and legal views would echo those of former Chief Justice Earl Warren's, a...

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