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Speaking Freely: Trials of the First Amendment Paperback – April 4, 2006

4.2 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1971, a young lawyer made his first appearance before the Supreme Court, successfully defending the New York Times against the Nixon administration's attempt to block publication of the Pentagon Papers. With that case, the cause of free speech found a formidable advocate. Abrams recounts his role in several landmark cases as he became the legal icon of an era of unparalleled extension of First Amendment protections. Most illuminating are Abrams's detailed explanations of the legal and psychological tactics he has used before the Supreme Court. He also creates some vividly villainous portraits of his antagonists, most notably Rudolph Giuliani ("deeply contemptuous of the First Amendment"), who was sued by the Brooklyn Museum of Art over his attempts to cut its financing after a controversial exhibit. 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. Still, Abrams conveys the nuance of constitutional law, the grappling for incremental advances in precedent, the interplay between the needs of his clients and the larger cause of free speech, and the sheer intellectual pleasure of legal disputation. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Abrams, an ardent legal defender of First Amendment rights for more than 30 years, brings immediacy to this analysis of how challenges to free-speech rights are affecting the ability of the U.S. to come to a clear consensus on how those rights should be applied. He re-creates eight of the most significant cases of his career, demonstrating the broad range of challenges to the First Amendment. The cases include the Pentagon Papers and Nixon's efforts to squelch publication of highly classified analysis of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, Mayor Giuliani's efforts to close a controversial exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, defense of NBC in a libel suit brought by Wayne Newton, two cases raising challenges to truth as a defense for the press, and defense of a senator and broadcasters in a case involving political campaigns. Abrams offers background on the issues involved in the cases, as well as his legal strategies, and the fascinating characters engaged in the disputes. This highly accessible book should have wide appeal for lawyers, journalists, and students interested in First Amendment issues. Vernon Ford
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; 59048th edition (April 4, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0143036750
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143036753
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.9 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,529,922 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Noted Attorney Floyd Abrams presents a balanced, mostly non-partisan look at the trials and tribulations of modern free speech in his new book, Speaking Freely. This is no arid scholarly commentary on famous cases taken from the court reporter's minutes. Instead, Speaking Freely is straight from Abrams' front row seat as an attorney arguing before courts across the land all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Abrams examines cases which involve everything from his first appearance before the Supreme Court, arguing in defense of the New York Times against the Nixon administration's attempt to block printing of the Pentagon Papers in its pages to defending NBC investigative reporter Brian Ross against Las Vegas icon Wayne "Las Vegas' Most Admired Citizen" Newton.

Abrams is refreshingly candid about these experiences and several others in this intellectually weighty but still breezy page-turner about the right to free speech. It is also a caution to those who would blithely support current Bush Administration tactics to curb free speech in the name of "security." Abrams, without a heavy hand, shows just how fragile the whole concept is when in the hands of those seeking political power or the expediency of easy answers to grievances.

The chapter on Wayne Newton is enjoyable in a "True Hollywood Story" kind of way. In it, Newton is described as having mafia ties by NBC reporter Ross in a 1980's televised news broadcast. It is immediately evident that Abrams has no love for Newton or Las Vegas, and says so. His opening sentence in the Wayne Newton chapter quotes Otto Friedrich, who said that Vegas "is what hell might be like if it had been planned and built by New York gangsters.
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Format: Hardcover
Have just begun the book and already I can say say it is a fair, must read for anyone, conservative or liberal or middle roader who wants to see or know why the First Amendment is such a national treausre. And how no matter who is in office, attempts to censor are always a concern. The liberals want to restrict hate speech, cigarette advertising while the conservatives seem hell bent on restricting free speech rights of post 911 Arab Americans or anything having to do with the military. And the author is a constant reminder to all of us, citizens, that we can easily loose Constitutional rights if we do not fight to keep them.
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Format: Paperback
I read this book in between "The Nine" by Jeffery Toobin The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court and "The Brethren" by Bob WoodwardThe Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court. I almost gave up reading law related books because of it. The book is to be a list of cases he has been involved in and what he did in them--but it lacks any of the draw of a real insider account. It isn't a book about free speech it is more about Floyd Abrams and what he does. The few things you couldn't know otherwise are limited to his thoughts at the time (might I lose this case again?) for the most part. As far as law related books go there are better ones that are more interesting.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Floyd Abrams is an acknowleged expert in First Amendment issues. This collection of some of the dramatic cases on which he worked makes for interesting reading. Even for non lawyers the style is easy to understand and focuses on the human interest of the cases rather than the legal maneuvering (though for lawyers there are some interesting pointers that can be gleaned). A very enjoyable and informative read.
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By Zack on December 4, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Okay, I should have paid more attention in school when we studied the First Amendment but I honestly did not believe it would be information that I would affect me so much in life. This book was easy to read and shocking to learn. The examples Abrams offers in his book make my head shake with wonder. I couldn't help but continue to think about his case studies well after I read the book. He presents his information to non-lawyers so much better than any textbook could have managed. Outstanding book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Speaking Freely opened my eyes to the evils of prior restraint on the press. I also come away from this work thigh a new understanding of how often national security and are of harm are used to keep information from the public, when, in fact, there is no provable harm.
Ultimately, I also find a new respect for the American system that often comes around to supporting free speech, even although it sometimes takes an expensive, risky and lengthy route to reach that outcome.
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