Floyd Abrams

Floyd Abrams (born July 9, 1936) is an American attorney at Cahill Gordon & Reindel. He is an expert on constitutional law, and has argued 13 cases before the Supreme Court of the United States. Many of the arguments in briefs he has written have been adopted as United States Constitutional interpretative law as it relates to the First Amendment and free speech.

Floyd Abrams
Floyd Abrams by Jeff Weiner.jpg
Floyd Abrams in 2006.
Born (1936-07-09) July 9, 1936 (age 84)
Alma materCornell University (BA)
Yale Law School (JD)
EmployerCahill Gordon & Reindel
Known forSeveral First Amendment cases
Efrat Surasky
(m. 1963)
ChildrenDan Abrams
Ronnie Abrams

Abrams represented The New York Times in 1971 during the Pentagon Papers case, Judith Miller in the CIA leak grand jury investigation, Standard & Poor's and Lorillard Tobacco Company. He argued for Citizens United during the 2010 Supreme Court case.[1]

He is the William J. Brennan Jr. visiting Professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Abrams joined Cahill Gordon & Reindel in 1963 and became a partner in 1970.


Abrams is Jewish.[2] He earned his undergraduate degree from Cornell University in 1956, and after trying to decide between a PhD in American History and Law, he decided to obtain his Juris Doctor from Yale Law School in 1960.[3] He lives in New York City with wife Efrat Surasky.[4] Together they have a son, Dan Abrams of ABC, and a daughter, Judge Ronnie Abrams of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. He is a member of the Constitution Project's Liberty and Security Committee[5] and a patron of the Media Legal Defence Initiative.

Early career and legal scholarshipEdit

From 1961 to 1963, Abrams clerked for Judge Paul Leahy of the United States District Court for the District of Delaware. [6] He was also a Visiting Lecturer at Columbia Law School from 1981 to 1985.[7]


Quotes by AbramsEdit

  • "In August 1967 I spent a few days in New Delhi, visiting a friend who had been a law school classmate seven years earlier. She was a princess—a genuine one, from a still-powerful regal family. In New York City, when we were studying together, I had taken her to a Yankee game. In New Delhi she reciprocated by taking me to her fortune-teller—not just hers, but that of a bevy of Indian leaders, including former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and his daughter and successor as prime minister, Indira Gandhi... Before I was thirty-five, he said, I would go to my country's capital to work on something that was important. The work, he said, would make me famous. It was not the sort of prediction that one entirely forgets. I was then thirty-one."[9]
  • "I then described two of my favorite First Amendment cases, the first of which was the 1966 Supreme Court ruling in Mills v. Alabama... The other case was commenced by a Miami labor leader, Pat Tornillo, who was a candidate for the Florida House of Representatives. The Miami Herald had published editorials criticizing Tornillo; the union leader had responded by demanding that the Herald publish, verbatim, replies he had written to each editorial."[10]

Quotes about AbramsEdit

  • "Ask someone to name a First Amendment lawyer. If they answer, one-hundred percent of the time the answer will be the same: Floyd Abrams. Then ask them to name another such lawyer. The answer: silence. It is a sign of the times that the name Floyd Abrams is synonymous with the First Amendment in a way that virtually no other name is." First Amendment Center.[11]
  • "[Floyd Abrams is the] most significant First Amendment lawyer of our age." Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan.[12]

Selected writingsEdit

  • Speaking Freely: Trials of the First Amendment, (Viking Press, 2005) ISBN 978-0-670-03375-1.
  • Friend of the Court: On the Front Lines with the First Amendment, (Yale University Press, 2013) ISBN 978-0300190878.
  • The Soul of the First Amendment, (Yale University Press, 2017) ISBN 978-0300190885.

Book reviews for Speaking FreelyEdit

  • "Most illuminating are Abrams's detailed explanations of the legal and psychological tactics he has used before the Supreme Court.... Abrams rarely steps back from his courtroom reconstructions to make a more comprehensive argument for his nearly absolutist reading of the First Amendment. Only in describing his fight against the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law does Abrams reason more broadly, and his powerful argument makes a reader wish the whole book had been more expansive." Publishers Weekly.[13]
  • "Unfortunately, Abrams is far more fair-minded where the argument against a free-speech claim is weak than he is where it's compelling.... This is a serious flaw, and not just because it doesn't do justice to a complicated issue [like campaign finance reform].... It isn't too much, however, to expect as straightforward an account of the McCain-Feingold case as Abrams offers of other cases in the book. In general, his charming, engaging and often compelling book would have been stronger if he at any point revealed any real intellectual or emotional distance from a client's litigating position. Not all First Amendment claims are created equal." Benjamin Wittes, The Washington Post's Book World.[14]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Facial Recognition Start-Up Mounts a First Amendment Defense in Privacy Suits". The New York Times. 11 August 2020. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  2. ^ http://jewishjournal.com/news/world/11617/
  3. ^ https://www.chambers-associate.com/the-big-interview/floyd-abrams-first-amendment-litigator
  4. ^ "Abrams, Floyd 1936–". Contemporary Authors. Cengage. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  5. ^ "Members". constitutionproject.com. Archived from the original on April 27, 2009. Retrieved 2013-12-22.
  6. ^ "Floyd Abrams delivers annual Salant Lecture". Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. Retrieved 2016-01-11.
  7. ^ "Floyd Abrams, Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP: Profile & Biography". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2016-01-11.
  8. ^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter A" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 20 March 2011.
  9. ^ Floyd Abrams, Speaking Freely, Page 1 (2005)
  10. ^ Speaking Freely, Pages 232-33.
  11. ^ Mr. First Amendment -- Forthcoming Book By Floyd Abrams Archived 2006-09-27 at the Wayback Machine, via FirstAmendmentCenter.org
  12. ^ results, search (7 April 2005). "Speaking Freely: Trials of the First Amendment". Viking Adult – via Amazon.
  13. ^ Amazon.com Page for Speaking Freely.
  14. ^ Amazon.com

External linksEdit