Martin Garbus

Trial lawyer, author

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.