Ephraim London (1911–1990) was a leading constitutional law attorney who successfully argued First Amendment cases before the Supreme Court, including Burstyn v. Wilson (1952); Kingsley International Pictures v. Board of Regents (1959); Jacobellis v. Ohio (1964); and Ashton v. Kentucky (1966).
Born in Brooklyn, London followed his father and uncle into the practice of law. He obtained his law degree from New York University. After serving in World War II, London became a highly successful private practitioner.
London’s Burstyn case established film as First Amendement-protected expression
His most famous First Amendment case was Burstyn, in which the Supreme Court established that film is a form of expression protected by the First Amendment. The Court ruled that New York authorities could not declare the movie The Miracle sacrilegious or blasphemous.
London argued other First Amendment cases before the Supreme Court
Kingsley and Jacobellis respectively involved issues arising from attempts to restrict books and movies, whereas Ashton involved Kentucky’s criminal libel laws. London also represented comedian Lenny Bruce in a celebrated obscenity case.
London wrote the two-volume The World of Law, published by Simon and Schuster in 1960, and taught courses on constitutional law and law and literature at his alma mater, New York University Law School. He died in June 1990, at the age of 78.
David L. Hudson, Jr. is a law professor at Belmont who publishes widely on First Amendment topics. He is the author of a 12-lecture audio course on the First Amendment entitled Freedom of Speech: Understanding the First Amendment (Now You Know Media, 2018). He also is the author of many First Amendment books, including The First Amendment: Freedom of Speech (Thomson Reuters, 2012) and Freedom of Speech: Documents Decoded (ABC-CLIO, 2017). This article was originally published in 2009.