Burton Joseph

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Burton Joseph
Burton Allen Joseph

(1930-05-30)May 30, 1930
DiedMarch 31, 2010(2010-03-31) (aged 79)
Known forFirst Amendment and free speech litigation

Burton Allen Joseph (May 30, 1930 – March 31, 2010) was an American civil rights attorney.[1][2] He represented clients in free speech cases, and represented the American Library Association in its suit that ultimately found the Communications Decency Act unconstitutional. He pushed the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois to represent the National Socialist Party of America, an offshoot of the American Nazi Party, in its desire to march in Skokie, Illinois.[1] That case resulted in National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie, 432 U.S. 43 (1977), a Supreme Court opinion that determined the Party had the right to march.[1]

Joseph was a partner at Joseph, Lichtenstein & Levinson, a Chicago law firm, and also defended demonstrators arrested at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968. Born in Chicago, his parents ran a business caretaking Jewish cemeteries. Joseph obtained his undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois, graduated from DePaul law in 1952 and started his practice in Chicago soon thereafter. Among his many clients was the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.[3] In addition to his legal work, he was the executive director of the Playboy Foundation, the charitable arm of Playboy Enterprises, for nine years. He was an adjunct professor at the Chicago–Kent College of Law for ten years.[4]


  1. ^ a b c William Grimes, "Burton Joseph, Lawyer in First Amendment Cases, Is Dead at 79", The New York Times, April 2, 2010, available online.
  2. ^ Daarel Burnette II, "Burton Joseph, 1930-2010: Attorney championed civil rights", Chicago Tribune, April 01, 2010 [1]
  3. ^ "R.I.P. Burton Joseph, First Amendment Attorney" ICV2 (4 April 2010), accessed 4 April 2010
  4. ^ "Burton Joseph" Joseph, Lichtenstein & Levinson (law firm), accessed 4 April 2010