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Abrams, Floyd M.


ABRAMS, FLOYD M. (1936– ), U.S. lawyer. Abrams, who was born in New York, graduated from Cornell University and Yale Law School and achieved fame as the nation's most prominent defender of the rights of the press under the First Amendment, arguing many important cases before the United States Supreme Court. At the law firm of Cahill, Gordon & Reindel, he argued more First Amendment and media cases before the Supreme Court than any lawyer in United States history. Perhaps his most important case involved the New York Times, which acquired a secret history of the United States policy in Vietnam from the administrations of Harry S. Truman through Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967, and begin printing it on June 13, 1971 (the war in Vietnam was still going on at the time). Abrams was co-counsel for the Times as the administration of Richard M. Nixon sought to enjoin the Times from printing the archive on grounds of national security. In a lower court decision, the government was able to bar the paper from printing the stories. The Times agreed to suspend publication while it awaited a decision in the Supreme Court. It was the first time in American history that the government exercised a prior restraint on the press. But the Times eventually prevailed. The case reached the Supreme Court, which decided by a 6–3 vote that the government's case against releasing the material was not compelling and allowed the series to be printed. Over the years Abrams represented virtually every major media organization in First Amendment-related cases: cnn, abc, nbc, cbs, Time, Business Week, The Nation, and Reader's Digest, among others. Abrams was also counsel to the Brooklyn Museum in its legal battle with Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who sought to close an art exhibition he considered blasphemous and in poor taste. In addition to his legal representation, Abrams was chairman of several American Bar Association committees on freedom of speech and of the press. He served as a visiting lecturer at Yale Law School and William J. Brennan Jr. Visiting Professor of First Amendment Law at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

[Stewart Kampel (2nd ed.)]

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