First Amendment Law Group

Eaton Van Winkle’s experience in the First Amendment enables us to effectively counsel our clients as to their rights in this area of constitutional law to manage their risks, and to protect those rights and interests in litigation when necessary.

Attorneys in EVW’s First Amendment Law Group focus on handling issues and disputes involving the right to free speech and freedom of the press.


EVW’s First Amendment Law Group is headed by Martin Garbus, a 2007 recipient of the PEN Center USA First Amendment Award of Honor. His cases have established new legal precedents in this area in the Supreme Court and in courts throughout the U.S.

Mr. Garbus served as co-counsel in Ashton v Kentucky (384 U.S. 195), where the U.S. Supreme Court, in one of its most important First Amendment cases, effectively invalidated all criminal libel laws in the United States; and Jacobellis v. Ohio (378 U.S. 184), where the Supreme Court held unconstitutional an Ohio statute seeking to regulate the content of motion pictures.

Sample Clients

  • High profile authors and publishers
  • Media producers including filmmakers
  • Media hosts, actors, entertainers, artists and personalities
  • Makers and purveyors of news
  • Celebrities featured in broadcasts and publications or seeking privacy protection
  • Social commentators
  • High ranking government officials
  • Persons in the public sphere

Among others, Mr. Garbus has represented:

  • Famed comedian Lenny Bruce against obscenity charges
  • Writer Allen Ginsberg in a free speech prosecution
  • Writer Robert Sam Anson in a lawsuit claiming Michael Eisner and Walt Disney tried to stop the publication of a book critical of Disney
  • Viking Press against attempts to interfere with the publication of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses
  • Penguin Books against attempts by Lawrence Walsh, Special Council to Iran-Contra, to stop the publication of Jeffrey Tobin’s book on Iran-Contra
  • Actor/director Spike Lee in an injunction suit filed to prevent the release of “Malcolm X”
  • Scholastic Books, publisher of the Harry Potter series, against claims that someone other than J.K. Rowling wrote her best-selling books

Sample Engagements

Our engagements range from high-profile litigations to risk management and crisis counseling concerning statements and materials in media outlets, including print media, broadcast media, the internet, social media and blogging, as well as media practices.

Litigators in our First Amendment Law Group have handled cases at all levels of State and Federal Court, including the U.S. Supreme Court:

  • Free speech
  • Freedom of the press
  • Libel and defamation
  • Invasions of privacy
  • Confidentiality agreements and contractual restrictions on publication
  • Harassment

Recently, EVW attorneys won a series of defamation cases brought by Chinese corporations against a pseudonymous online blogger critical of those companies, who was also a short-seller of their securities.

EVW attorneys successfully defeated an anti-SLAPP motion in the Superior Court of California for a defamation claim they brought on behalf of Thomson Safaris against anonymous online defamers of that company. They were also successful in representing an award-winning documentary filmmaker sued for defamation for the contents of her film “The Queen of Versailles.” After a four-day arbitration before the Independent Film & Television Alliance, the arbitrator dismissed the defamation claims on the merits and awarded the filmmaker attorneys’ fees.

In recent years, the firm represented Don Imus in his suit against CBS arising from his firing for allegedly libelous comments made about the members of the Rutgers women’s basketball team, and then successfully defended him in a libel suit brought by a member of the team. The firm also successfully defended Imus in an arbitration hearing in a defamation claim brought by one of his advertisers.

Multi Discipline Concentrations

Members of the First Amendment Law Group, some of whom who also practice in the Media Law Group, are experienced in the protection of rights in the public sphere and media sector.

Other members of the First Amendment group who also serve in the firm’s International group have broad experience in international human rights litigation, and the counseling and representation of clients in governmental investigations, including multi-country fraud investigations.

Learn More

Together, the attorneys in our First Amendment group can handle any issue related to free speech, freedom of the press or defamation that our clients may face.
Contact us or call (212) 779-9910 to learn how we can help.