Widely regarded as a “legendary” First Amendment advocate who has represented the likes of Ronald Reagan, Nelson Mandela and Andrei Sakharov, New York lawyer Martin Garbus has agreed to defend the co-author of “Muslim Mafia” and his son in a lawsuit brought by the controversial Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Garbus, who has appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court along with trial and appellate courts in more than 100 cases, told WND he’s defending co-author P. David Gaubatz because his case is a “continuation of a struggle being carried out throughout the world” to guard freedom of speech.
“I think a book has a right to be out there, and any attempt to stop the book, I think, would be violating the First Amendment,” he said.
Garbus has been in the thick of numerous groundbreaking and highly controversial First Amendment cases over the past five decades, from Daniel Ellsberg’s battle over the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War and Lenny Bruce’s famous obscenity charges to radio host Don Imus’ lawsuit against CBS after he was fired for his remarks about the Rutgers women’s basketball team.
Other clients have included activist Cesar Chavez, actor Robert Redford, actor Al Pacino, director Spike Lee, writer Samuel Beckett and Czech playwright Vaclav Havel. Later, when Havel became president of the Czech Republic, Garbus was invited to help write the nation’s constitution.
One of his many seminal cases was Ashton v. Kentucky, in which the Supreme Court ruled in 1966 that libel could no longer be criminally prosecuted.
As WND reported, CAIR alleges Gaubatz’s son, Chris Gaubatz, who served as an unpaid volunteer for CAIR in a daring undercover operation, obtained access to the D.C.-based Muslim group’s property under false pretenses, removed internal documents and made recordings of officials and employees “without any consent or authorization and in violation of his contractual, fiduciary and other legal obligations to CAIR.”
A federal judge in Washington issued a restraining order Nov. 3 barring the Gaubtazes from further use or publication of the material – 12,000 pages of documents along with audio and video recordings – and demanding that they return it to the Muslim group’s lawyers.
Garbus told WND the material will be returned, and a proposed order filed Thursday indicates both sides have agreed.
He argues there’s “no point in having a fight over the right to distribute documents that have already been distributed.”
Martin Garbus and daughter, Liz Garbus (Photo: Anthony G. Moore)
“My client had this material for a long time, and I presume during that long time other people saw it,” Garbus said. “So whatever use is being made of the document, I presume has already been made.”
CAIR contends the documents were stolen, but Garbus believes that’s “not an issue with respect to whether or not the book should be published.” David Gaubatz insists the research described in his book, including securing the documents, “was conducted professionally and legally” in cooperation with law enforcement officials. Relevant material is in the hands of the FBI, he said.
“The agreement to return the documents is hardly, as CAIR officials have irresponsibly suggested publicly, an admission the material obtained in this investigation was stolen. We believe the documents and recordings were all obtained legally,” said Joseph Farah, editor and chief executive officer of WND, the parent company of WND Books, which published “Muslim Mafia.” “Many of those documents have already been turned over to law-enforcement authorities – not typically the practice of those interested in ‘stealing’ things. I know the defendants in this lawsuit would prefer to see all the material handed over to law enforcement for review before being returned to CAIR.”
Farah added: “But, remember, what is being returned to CAIR are documents that were headed for CAIR’s shredder. Once CAIR was eager to dispose of them. Now, suddenly, the group is treating them like they are the crown jewels. Go figure.”
“Further, ultimately, there is only one reason the defendants didn’t decide to fight CAIR in the courtroom as a matter of principle,” said Farah. “That’s because the cost of their defense would have been so high it would have wiped them out financially. That’s the sad truth of American justice. An extremist group with foreign backing can press litigation against American citizens with impunity. It’s an example of economic terrorism.”
The Islamic group claims it was damaged by Gaubatz’s use of the material, but Garbus contends any damage is “hard to find.”
Gaubatz says CAIR’s legal moves have been anticipated, and he looks forward “to bringing all the evidence to court.”
CAIR is seeking punitive damages for trespass, breach of contract, conversion and breach of fiduciary duty.
Garbus is teaming with two other high-profile lawyers, Bernard Grimm in Washington and Daniel Horowitz in the San Francisco Bay area. Horowitz, a frequent TV legal analyst, represented talk-radio host Michael Savage in his lawsuit against CAIR. Grimm also is a regular commentator on the Fox News Channel, CNN and Court TV.
In Gaubatz’s book, “Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That’s Conspiring to Islamize America,” published by WND Books, he and co-author Paul Sperry present firsthand evidence CAIR is acting as a front for a well-funded conspiracy of the Muslim Brotherhood – the parent of al-Qaida and Hamas – to infiltrate the U.S. and help pave the way for Saudi-style Islamic law to rule the nation.
In the lawsuit, however, CAIR, a self-described Muslim civil-rights group, does not defend itself against the book’s claims.
The FBI cut off ties to CAIR in January after the group was named an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation case in Texas, the largest terrorism-finance case in U.S. history. Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer of New York and other senators have called for a government-wide ban on CAIR.
Garbus told WND he believes Americans have an interest in exposure of the CAIR documents, because they are relevant to federal law enforcement officials’ concerns about the group’s ties to terrorist operatives that threaten the nation’s security.
“The more information you have, the better able you are to form a judgment about the organization,” he said.
Garbus said the Gaubatz lawsuit has similarities to his defense of legal author and CNN commentator Jeffrey Toobin, who allegedly violated a confidentiality agreement with Iran-Contra investigator Lawrence E. Walsh in the early 1990s when he published a book about his experience as a member of the prosecution team. Garbus won the case on First Amendment grounds.
CAIR alleges Chris Gaubatz signed a confidentiality agreement when he worked as an intern for six months, but Gaubatz denies it, and CAIR reportedly says it has no copy of any agreement.
In an interview with New York Super Lawyer Magazine in 2006, Garbus described himself as “not your typical lawyer.”
“I don’t play golf, I don’t go to parties and openings. I don’t go to legal conferences in Hawaii,” he said. “I read about two books a week, and the world in which I live is basically a literary world rather than a political world.”
Robert Redford, who employed Garbus in a suit against the Lorillard tobacco company for its manufacture of “Redford” cigarettes, praised his legal work.
“Over the years, I’ve always had great comfort in getting Marty’s counsel. He’s sort of rabbinical in his manner,” Redford told the legal magazine.
Another famous client, Miramax Films founder Harvey Weinstein, called Garbus a “man of incredible integrity and a dynamic champion of freedom of speech.”
“In my mind, he is an American hero,” Weinstein said.
Garbus, who was featured in a documentary by his daughter, Liz Garbus, that debuted on HBO, “Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech,” grew up in the Bronx where his father owned a candy store, Sol’s Luncheonette. His mother died when he was 3.
He also has appeared in feature films, including “Frankie and Johnny,” starring Al Pacino and Michelle Pfeiffer; “Pretty Woman”; “The Runaway Bride”; and “Dear God.”
A graduate of Hunter College, he went on to New York University Law School, where he was mentored by Emile Zola Berman, who represented Robert F. Kennedy’s assassin, Sirhan B. Sirhan.
Publisher’s Weekly asked Garbus how difficult it was for him to defend people or causes he found distasteful.
“It isn’t easy. At one point I had the Pentagon Papers in my house for two years and the FBI outside my door,” he said. “What I found was that any time I touched one of these cases, my practice diminished. The whole idea of trying to maintain a practice while you’re also doing this controversial stuff is very difficult.”
He said he began defending writers and publishers when he lived in New York City’s Greenwich Village during law school in the mid-1950s.
“I got to know a good deal of the art community, writers, filmmakers, painters, and I realized that there was just a great deal of censorship going on,” he told Publishers Weekly. “Early on, I represented Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso in a drug case.”
Garbus has taught trial practice at the Yale Law School and constitutional law at Columbia. He also has taught in Beijing and Prague. He’s the author of six books and numerous articles that have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and in legal publications.
IMPORTANT NOTE: WND needs your help in supporting the defense of “Muslim Mafia” co-author P. David Gaubatz and his son Chris against CAIR’s ongoing legal attack. Already, the book’s revelations have led to formal congressional demands for three different federal investigations of CAIR. In the meantime, however, someone has to defend these two courageous investigators who have, at great personal risk, revealed so much about this dangerous group. Although WND has procured the best First Amendment attorneys in the country for their defense, we can’t do it without your help. Please donate to WND’s Legal Defense Fund now. Thank you.