Floyd Abrams

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Floyd Abrams
Floyd Abrams by Jeff Weiner.jpg
Floyd Abrams in 2006.
Born (1936-07-09) July 9, 1936 (age 85)
Alma materCornell University (BA)
Yale Law School (JD)
EmployerCahill Gordon & Reindel
Known forSeveral First Amendment cases
Efrat Surasky
(m. 1963)
ChildrenDan Abrams
Ronnie Abrams
FamilyElliott Abrams (cousin)

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.

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 was born in New York City on July 9, 1936, the son of Rae (née Eberlin) and Isadore Abrams.[2] He is of Jewish descent.[3] His first cousin is Elliot Abrams, President George W. Bush's deputy national-security advisor.[4] 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.[5] He lives in New York City with wife Efrat Surasky.[6] Together they have a son, Dan Abrams of ABC, as well as the host of Live PD and Court Cam, 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[7] and a patron of the Media Legal Defence Initiative.

Early career and legal scholarship[edit]

From 1961 to 1963, Abrams clerked for Judge Paul Conway Leahy of the United States District Court for the District of Delaware. [8] He was also a Visiting Lecturer at Columbia Law School from 1981 to 1985.[9]


Selected writings[edit]

  • 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 Freely[edit]

  • "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.[11]
  • "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.[12]

See also[edit]


  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. ^ "Abrams, Floyd 1936–". Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved March 26, 2021.
  3. ^ Blum, Howard (July 7, 2005). "Q and A With Floyd Abrams". The Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles. Does your heritage as a Jew give you a particular affinity as a lawyer for the First Amendment, which protects freedom of religion, freedom of speech and establishes the separation of church and state?
  4. ^ Dana, Rebecca (December 6, 2016). "The Abrams Family". The New York Observer.
  5. ^ https://www.chambers-associate.com/the-big-interview/floyd-abrams-first-amendment-litigator
  6. ^ "Abrams, Floyd 1936–". Contemporary Authors. Cengage. Retrieved May 2, 2020.
  7. ^ "Members". constitutionproject.com. Archived from the original on April 27, 2009. Retrieved 2013-12-22.
  8. ^ "Floyd Abrams delivers annual Salant Lecture". Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. Retrieved 2016-01-11.
  9. ^ "Floyd Abrams, Cahill Gordon & Reindel LLP: Profile & Biography". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2016-01-11.
  10. ^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter A" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 20 March 2011.
  11. ^ Amazon.com Page for Speaking Freely.
  12. ^ Amazon.com

External links[edit]