Nuanced Absolutism

Floyd Abrams and the First Amendment

by Ronald K. L. Collins

Tags: Constitutional Law, First Amendment

Table of Contents (PDF)

260 pp  $27.00

ISBN 978-1-61163-246-0
eISBN 978-1-61163-505-8

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In Nuanced Absolutism First Amendment scholar Ronald Collins identifies, explains, and analyzes key aspects of the legal thought of America's most noted contemporary First Amendment lawyer, Floyd Abrams — a man who has had a profound impact on the law of free speech. In the process of discussing Abrams's work, the reader is introduced to "nuanced absolutism," a way of thinking about the First Amendment.

Nuanced absolutism describes a tenet of existing First Amendment law that has emerged over the years and which has taken on new life in the decisional law of the Roberts Court. Before it was judge-made law, it was a brand of law argued by lawyers, most notably Floyd Abrams.

One of the author's aims is to remind readers of the role played by lawyers in shaping our law, especially our supreme law. By way of an intellectual history and biographical approach to his subject, Collins explains how Abrams's nuanced absolutism operates in the context of some of the appellate cases he has litigated, the causes he has defended, and the positions he has taken in public. In short, the work is a biographical sketch and case study of one man's life in the law, the law of the First Amendment.

"Ronald K.L. Collins has produced an accessible portrait of a colorful and influential free speech advocate that brings life to theory and theory to life. It is an excellent addition to the wealth of literature on the dynamic First Amendment." — Law and Politics Book Review

"Ron Collins' insightful analysis of Floyd Abrams' life's work combines material from cases ripped from today's headlines with scholarly analysis of historic decisions to show how a principled and talented advocate can make a difference in preserving our cherished First Amendment freedoms. This book breaks new ground in ways both illuminating and engaging—a major contribution to the literature about the First Amendment." — Robert Corn-Revere, partner, Davis Wright Tremaine

"Floyd Abrams understands that for a society to be free, we must protect the free speech and free press rights of people with whom we disagree. That is not a task that wins popularity contests. As Ron Collins ably demonstrates in this original and impressive work of scholarship, the conviction and hard work of one brilliant, principled lawyer can make a difference in the civic life of every American." — Lucy Dalglish, Dean, Philip Merrill College of Journalism, University of Maryland & former Executive Director of Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

"Ronald Collins' wonderful new book not only explores the life and intellectual contribution of a remarkable lawyer, Floyd Abrams, but also, in so doing, illuminates the basic questions that underlie all of First Amendment jurisprudence. As Collins makes abundantly clear, Floyd Abrams has long advocated for a nuanced version of the First Amendment, and his advocacy has largely, if not completely, carried the day." — Paul M. Smith, Partner, Jenner & Block, Chair of the Appellate and Supreme Court Practice and Co-Chair of the Media and First Amendment practice

"Ron Collins cogently and eloquently shows that a lawyer's ideas and the gifted advocacy of them can truly be the power behind the throne of free speech jurisprudence." — Patricia A. Millett, Partner, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld