Famed First Amendment attorney Burton Joseph passed away last Wednesday at the age of 79 as the result of brain cancer, according to the New York Times.  Joseph had a long involvement with the comic industry and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, including winning the appeal on the Fund’s first case, the defense of Friendly Frank’s comics in the mid-eighties.  He became the Fund’s legal counsel in 1996 and since then advised the Fund and people that came to it for help in innumerable cases and incidents. 


Joseph first became involved in First Amendment litigation in the late 60s, when he was a volunteer in the historic defense of Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer.  He tried many historic First Amendment cases, including ABA v. Hudnut, ABA v. Virginia, and Playboy Entertainment Group v. Department of Justice, and more recently served as counsel for ALA/ACLF v. Reno. 


Burton was also a founding member and former chairman of Media Coalition, a First Amendment group whose members include the CBLDF, ABA, MPAA, and over a dozen other trade associations and foundations.

CBLDF Executive Director Charles Brownstein said of Joseph, "In the First Amendment world, Burt Joseph was a titan whose efforts advanced the cause of free expression greatly.  His work ensured that creativity across a variety of media could blossom in new and exciting ways.  As counsel to Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, Burt was a passionate advocate for comics and helped ensure that the medium could continue to mature.  But beyond his professional expertise, Burt was a terrific human being, whose wit, curiosity, and kindness will be deeply missed."

“The comics industry, and other First Amendment constituencies, have lost a great friend and warrior,” CBLDF founder Denis Kitchen said of Joseph.