Louis Nizer

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Louis Nizer (February 6, 1902 – November 10, 1994) was a noted Jewish-American trial lawyer and senior partner of the law firm Phillips, Nizer, Benjamin, Krim & Ballon.

Early life[edit]

The son of Joseph and Bella Nizer, he was born in London, before coming to the United States as a child.[1] His father was the founder of a Brooklyn dry-cleaning business. As a youth, he sang in the choir of renowned cantor Josef “Yossele” Rosenblatt then, at age 10, began public speaking. Nizer "attributed his later fame as an orator and toastmaster to the lessons he learned as a socialist soapbox speaker." He won a government citation for his patriotic speeches during Broadway show intermissions for Liberty Bond drives during World War I.

He was a graduate of Columbia College, where he was coxswain for the rowing team, and played on the handball team. He joined the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity, and twice won the George William Curtis Prize for excellence in the public English orations as an undergraduate. He was later graduated from Columbia Law School.[2]

Legal career[edit]

In 1926, Nizer began working at the law office of Louis Phillips and, in 1928, the pair co-founded a law partnership: Phillips and Nizer, later Phillips, Nizer, Benjamin, Krim & Ballon. For a number of years, Nizer was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the "highest-paid lawyer in the world."[3] He represented many celebrities in a variety of cases, including Johnny Carson, Salvador Dalí, Mae West, "Dr. J", and Roy Fruehauf of the Fruehauf Trailer Corporation.

His most famous cases, however, involved representing Quentin Reynolds in his successful libel suit against columnist Westbrook Pegler, and representing the broadcaster John Henry Faulk against AWARE, a right-wing organization that had falsely labeled him a communist. His representation of Reynolds served as the basis for the Broadway play A Case of Libel, while his legal victory in the Faulk case was credited with "breaking the back of blacklisting in broadcasting."[1]

Other work[edit]

In addition to his legal work, Louis Nizer was an author, artist, lecturer, and advisor to some of the most powerful people in the worlds of politics, business, and entertainment. He wrote several books, among them the best-selling My Life In Court in 1961, about many of his famous cases, which spent many weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. He also wrote The Implosion Conspiracy in 1972, a study of the Julius and Ethel Rosenberg espionage case.

From 1928 to 1994, Nizer served as executive secretary and attorney for the New York Film Board of Trade, a position previously held by Louis Phillips.[4] With Jack Valenti, Nizer helped create the motion picture ratings system of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), for which he was general counsel. He also served as general counsel for United Artists.

After the assassination of John F. Kennedy, he authored the Foreword to the Warren Commission report on the investigation of JFK's murder, which had been researched by a former Department of Justice prosecutor who had recently joined the firm, future boxing promoter Bob Arum.[5]

Film, television, and stage portrayals[edit]

Nizer was portrayed by George C. Scott in the 1975 CBS made-for-television film, Fear on Trial, co-starring William Devane as the blacklisted radio personality John Henry Faulk.

Both on stage and on television, Van Heflin portrayed Robert Sloane, a fictionalized version of Nizer, in the play A Case of Libel, which dramatized the Quentin Reynolds - Westbrook Pegler trial. The playwright was Henry Denker. The play was first televised on commercial television, but a new production shown on cable television in the 1980s, and later PBS, starred Edward Asner as Sloane and Daniel J. Travanti as Boyd Bendix, who was based on conservative columnist Westbrook Pegler.

Personal life[edit]

Nizer was married to his wife Mildred for over 50 years until her death in 1993. Over his life, Nizer bestowed significant grants and charity to many Jewish causes. He died at the age 92 in New York City in 1994, having continued to work at his firm until 10 days before his death. He was survived by one stepchild (one stepchild preceded him in death) and several step-grandchildren and step-great-grandchildren.[6]


  • "My Life in Court," 1961 (Copyright date)
  • "The Jury Returns," 1966
  • "The Implosion Conspiracy," 1972
  • "Reflections Without Mirrors," 1978
  • "Catspaw," (Carroll & Graf 1992)
  • "New Courts of Industry: Self-Regulation Under the Motion Picture Code, with an Analysis of the Code" (1935, Longacre Press)
  • "Thinking on Your Feet" (1940)
  • "What to Do With Germany" (1944, US Army) PDF [1]
  • "Between You and Me" (1948)


  1. ^ a b Louis Nizer, Lawyer to the Famous, Dies at 92 - By ERIC PACE, Published: Friday, November 11, 1994 NYTimes.com
  2. ^ Encyclopedia.com "Nizer, Louis", The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, The Gale Group, Inc., 2001. Retrieved August 23, 2018.
  3. ^ Encyclopedia.com "Nizer, Louis", The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives, The Gale Group, Inc., 2001. Retrieved August 23, 2018.
  4. ^ Vile, John R. Great American Lawyers: An Encyclopedia, Volume 1, ABC-CLIO, 2001, page 532. Retrieved August 23, 2018.
  5. ^ Iole, Kevin "Boxing promoter Bob Arum thinks JFK was assassinated on behalf of Fidel Castro", Yahoo Sports, November 18, 2013. Retrieved August 8, 2018.
  6. ^ The Hour - Nov 11, 1994

External links[edit]