Overview Of Martin Garbus’ Cases

United States Supreme Court Cases

  • In a 5-4 decision reached by the United States Supreme Court, Mr. Garbus filed what is arguably the most important due process case of the 20th century, Goldberg v. Kelly (397 U.S. 254).
  • Arguing in the United States Supreme Court after a trial in Alabama, Martin Garbus won in King v. Smith (392 U.S. 309) a unanimous 9-0 decision striking down laws in 14 states on the grounds they violated the Constitution. These laws had disenfranchised one million people.
  • Mr. Garbus served as co-counsel in Ashton v. Kentucky (384 U.S. 195), a Supreme Court decision that struck down all criminal libel laws in the United States.
  • Mr. Garbus served as co-counsel in Jacobellis v. Ohio (378 U.S. 184), where the Supreme Court held unconstitutional an Ohio statute seeking to regulate motion pictures and, for the first time, defined the term “national community standards.”



  • Successfully represented famed comedian Lenny Bruce and his freedom of speech against criminal charges.
  • In a free-speech case, successfully represented best-selling writer Robert Sam Anson in a lawsuit claiming Walt Disney tried to stop publication of a book critical of the company.
  • Successfully represented, in a Federal court and then before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals sitting in New York, Penguin Books against attempts by Lawrence Walsh, Special Counsel to Iran-Contra, to stop the publication of Jeffrey Toobin’s book on Iran-Contra.
  • In a Chicago state court, and then in the Supreme Court of Illinois, successfully stopped the unauthorized publication of a book of short stories by author John Cheever.
  • In a Los Angeles, California, federal court, and then in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, successfully represented actor/director Spike Lee in an injunction suit filed to prevent the release of Malcolm X.
  • Successfully defended author Terry McMillan in a New York State court against libel allegations, on First Amendment grounds.
  • Representing Penguin, successfully set new precedent on behalf of all authors in establishing that libel did not under certain circumstances lie in the fiction area.
  • Successfully defended Scholastic Books, the publisher of the Harry Potter series, against claims that someone others than Rowling wrote the best-selling books.
  • Successfully defended Time Warner, Random House, Penguin, Putnam, and Bantam Books on numerous libel claims in New York, Arkansas, Ohio, Wyoming, and California.
  • In South Dakota, North Dakota, and Nebraska, and before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in Minnesota, successfully defended Peter Matthiessen and Penguin Books in federal suits filed by William Janklow, South Dakota Governor and Senator, and the FBI over allegations that the FBI wrongfully coerced testimony through physical abuse and that Janklow had raped an Indian woman.
  • Settled a suit brought by his client, Don Imus, against CBS for a reported $20 million and successfully defended Don Imus in a libel suit brought by the members of the Rutgers women’s basketball team.
  • Representied a New York Supreme Court judge in a misconduct investigation.



  • Won a copyright suit against the Coors Brewing Company on behalf of Public Enemy No. 1, a hip-hop and rap group, for wrongful sampling the group’s music in beer advertisements.
  • Represented Miramax Co. when the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) tried to rate several of its films R and on behalf of Miramax, brought a lawsuit to declare unconstitutional the MPAA’s film-ratings system.
  • Won a federal jury verdict representing the Isley Brothers against Motown Records in a case involving accounting fraud and copyright infringement and had it upheld by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • Successfully defended a trustee of the Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance in a copyright-infringement case involving choreographed material.
  • Won a trial in Mississippi Federal Court on behalf of Britain’s Channel 4 and the Public Broadcasting System in a case involving breach-of-contract claims and the unauthorized use of photographs in a PBS-Channel 13 film on art in America and had the decision upheld by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in Louisiana.
  • Represented the Public Broadcasting System in copyright and criminal suits in the United States.
  • Represented renowned artist Agnes Martin in lawsuits regarding ownership of her paintings and in her estate.


Civil Rights, Free Speech, and Other First Amendment Issues

  • Defended Josh Wolf, America’s longest-jailed journalist, who refused to turn over names of demonstrators to a 2007 San Francisco grand jury.
  • Represented Connecticut students whose play on Iraq, Voices in Conflict, was banned by school administrators in presenting their performance at the Public Theater and the Culture Project in New York.
  • Defended Cesar Chavez and other members of the United Farm Workers Union on criminal charges in Delano, California, Florida, and Texas.
  • Defended employees of Mobilization for Youth brought before the New York State Senate HUAC committee.
  • Defended civil rights workers, lawyers, and voters in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Arkansas on criminal charges.
  • Co-directed “Operation Southern Justice” to integrate criminal and civil juries in the South.
  • Defended opponents of the Vietnam and Iraq wars and supporters of the Civil Rights movement throughout the country.


Estate Matters and Protection of Personal Wealth

Martin Garbus protects his clients and their hard-earned assets. He has:

  • Tried numerous complex estate cases in New York and has been appointed to serve as lawyer and/or executor and/or trustee of numerous estates, including those of Marilyn Monroe, Igor Stravinsky, John Cheever, and Margaret Mitchell.
  • Successfully represented the Stravinsky estate in a precedent-setting suit interpreting the late author’s will and the disposition of hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties.
  • Represented the Mitchell Estate in a case involving a parody of the novel Gone With the Wind.
  • Successfully represented Grove Press and Pia Pera, author of Lo’s Diary, in a suit brought by the Estate of Vladimir Nabokov to block publication of her novel.
  • Successfully represented, in a Los Angeles federal court, a well known Hollywood personality defrauded of hundreds of millions of dollars by his business managers.
  • Represented in New York and New Mexico substantial estates involving control and value of significant works of art.
  • Represented art donors in valuation proceedings before the IRS and in tax court.
  • Represented Lloyds of London in the Supreme Court, New York County, on breach-of-contract claims by Russian oligarchs and in California and Texas on breach-of-contract claims.


Class Action Suits

  • Successfully represented plaintiffs and defendants in class action suits in New York.
  • Presently represents American Airlines employees in a one-billion-dollar class action suit against the airline.
  • In a four-month-long class action securities-fraud suit, represented plaintiffs against one of America’s largest corporations.



  • Successfully represented independent movie houses in their suit against several motion picture studios over preferential treatment given to movie chains.
  • Successfully represented book publishers charged with antitrust violations, including price fixing and monopoly.


The Internet

In 1998, Martin Garbus began representing individuals and companies in Internet litigation. Pioneering the legal future of the digital age, he represented the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Open Source Movement in the first copyright case to be tried under the new Digital Millennium Copyright Act. That landmark case, involving the motion picture industry and the MPAA, became the battleground where First Amendment and copyright/intellectual property values clashed, permanently affecting the art, movie, music, and DVD industry, including the rights of MP3 and iPod owners. It helped lead to changes in the way music and movies are sold. In other Internet-law cases, he successfully represented Internet defendants, including AOL, in copyright, libel, and criminal suits.


Criminal Defense

Martin Garbus has defended criminal cases across the country. He has successfully represented Wounded Knee murder defendants in Nebraska and South Dakota, a leading scientist against a claim by IBM that he stole secret computer codes, other white-collar defendants, and defendants in military court martial cases against various charges, as well as 10 cases of murder in New York. His case load in criminal defense includes a civil and RICO mail-fraud and money-laundering case involving $400,000,000 against a former European Prime Minister in California.


Environmental and Public Law

  • Successfully represented environmental groups challenging the Lower Manhattan Expressway in New York.
  • Represented citizens’ groups challenging excessive fees paid to New York State legislators and lobbyists.
  • Successfully represented university faculties and students in New York, Oregon, and Florida on academic-freedom and free-speech issues, as well as age- and sex-discrimination suits.


Additional Areas of Law

  • Successfully represented well known defendants and plaintiffs in matrimonial and custody suits at trial and before the highest court in the State of New York, the Court of Appeals.
  • Successfully represented an NBA player seeking arbitration of his contract.