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Admitted to Practice

  • New York, 1962
  • U.S. District Court Southern District of New York, 1966
  • U.S. Supreme Court, 1975
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 2nd Circuit, 1995
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 3rd Circuit, 1997
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 7th Circuit, 2003

Victor A. Kovner

KovnerVictor
Partner
T212.489.8230
F212.489.8340
Victor Kovner represents national and regional broadcast and print media clients in all aspects of communications law, in addition to his work in intellectual property and commercial litigation. He advises clients in cases of alleged defamation, privacy, copyright, press access, and reporter’s privilege and other First Amendment issues.

Victor has represented a wide range of clients in the media and the arts, including newspapers, magazines, book publishers, motion picture companies, documentary film producers, museums and billboard companies.

Representative Experience

Pre-publication/pre-broadcast review for various media entities

Counsels a wide number of media entities in pre-publication or pre-broadcast issues for various print publications and for motion picture companies. (Ongoing)

Documentary counsel

Provides pre-broadcast review and strategy to groundbreaking documentary and docudrama filmmakers and producers including: Hit the Ground Running Films, Andrew Jarecki, Robert Kenner, Elise Pearlstein, Laura Bickford and Abby Disney. Film projects have included documentaries such as, "Capturing the Friedmans," "Catfish," "Food, Inc.," "Last Stop on the Way to the Oasis," and "Sexy Baby" and docudramas, such as "All Good Things," and "Fur." (Ongoing)

Cassirer v. Kingdom of Spain

Action under Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act to recover Pissarro painting looted by Nazis from plaintiff's grandmother in 1939 and now held by the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld en banc the district courts' denial of defendants' motion to dismiss, holding that they are subject to suit under the immunity exception for claims involving property taken in violation of international law. Now sub judice in the 9th Circuit is the question of whether a portion of the current California statute of limitations infringes on federal foreign policy authority. (Ongoing)

Challenges to subpoenas for confidential records for McGraw-Hill (Platts)

Lead counsel representing McGraw-Hill in a variety of challenges to subpoenas for confidential records obtained by journalists at its Platts and Standard & Poors subsidiaries. Represented the company in federal courts in New York, the District of Columbia, Texas, Florida, Oklahoma, Colorado, and California. Most of the litigation involved assertion of the qualified privilege under the First Amendment and where applicable under state statutes and common law as well. (Ongoing)

Haberman v. City of Long Beach, et al.

Successfully appealed to New York Court of Appeals to overturn dismissal of litigation over denial of building permit, where zoning board of appeals disavowed litigation agreement to extend zoning variance. In issue of first impression, the Court of Appeals held that counsel for zoning board could bind the board by signing stipulation, and that no additional public hearing was required. (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2012)

Intellectual property claims for McGraw-Hill (Educational Publishing Division)

Represents McGraw-Hill in a variety of intellectual property claims arising out of its publications of educational material for children. (Ongoing)

Summit Media v. City of Los Angeles

Representing Clear Channel Outdoor in litigation pending in the Central District of California concerning Los Angeles outdoor advertising ordinances. (Ongoing)

Union Square Park Community Coalition, Inc. et al. v. NYC Dep’t of Parks and Recreation et al.

Represented Urban Space Holdings, Inc., operators of an annual holiday market in New York’s Union Square Park, in a challenge from a community coalition, arguing that the holiday market is not proper park use. After a lower court ruling granted a preliminary injunction halting a different project in the same park, DWT appealed the decision on behalf of Urban Space Holdings, arguing that the holiday market is a proper park use offering substantial satisfactions to the public that are available only in a park setting, and that commerce in the park is not per se improper. The First Department found that the holiday market is a proper park use, reversing the lower court’s decision and dismissing the case. (App Div. 1st Dept. 2013)

Bain v. Carroll

Successful representation of Scottish reporter in libel suit in the Supreme Court, New York County based on publication in Scotland. (2010)

Clear Channel Outdoor, Inc. v. The City of New York

Major First Amendment challenge to New York City's prohibition against outdoor advertising along its arterial highways. (2d Cir. 2010)

Stop the Madrassa v. Almontaser

Successfully defended former principal of Khalil Gibran International Academy (Brooklyn, N.Y.) in defamation suit brought by opponents of the school. Pre-discovery motion to dismiss granted and affirmed on appeal. 75 A.D.3d 539, 904 N.Y.S.2d 765 (N.Y.A.D. 2d Dept. 2010)

Third Church of Christ, Scientist, of New York City v. City of New York and Commissioner Patricia J. Lancaster

Obtained a permanent injunction on behalf of the Third Church of Christ, Scientist against the New York City Department of Buildings' revocation of permits to renovate a church in connection with a lease of space to caterer. The case was brought under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA). This result allowed the church to save its historic building and continue in operation. The case was covered by the New York Times on Dec. 2, 2008, the New York Daily News on Dec. 3, 2008, and in the New York Law Journal ("City Discriminated Against Church That Caters, Judge Says," Dec. 3, 2008). The Second Circuit Court of Appeals, on Dec.1, 2010, unanimously affirmed the District Court's issuance of a permanent injunction. (2d. Cir. 2010)

Morisseau v. DLA Piper U.S. LLP, Proskauer Rose LLP, and ALM Media Inc.

Represented DLA Piper U.S., LLP, in New York state court, successfully defeating the petitioner's motion for pre-action discovery in aid of framing a complaint for libel arising from the publication of an allegedly false and defamatory article about the petitioner, who was a party to a federal discrimination lawsuit. Index No. 08100448 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. 2009)

Zelnik v. Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.) et al.

Successful appeal sustaining a summary judgment dismissing a First Amendment retaliation claim that plaintiff was not afforded professor emeritus status in retaliation for speech related to a matter of public concern after the District Court determined that plaintiff failed to demonstrate any material adverse change in the terms and conditions of his employment as a consequence of his speech. 464 F. 3d 271 (2d Cir. 2007)

Nieves v. HBO

Defense of claims arising out of comments made in course of HBO series 'Family Bonds,' a documentary series about a real-life family of bail bondsmen. (N.Y. Cnty. Sup. Ct. 2006)

Verizon Directories Corp. v. Yellow Book USA, Inc.

Represented Yellow Book USA in a false advertising and product disparagement action brought by Verizon Directories Corp. concerning Yellow Book's advertisements and sales practices. Secured dismissal of product disparagement claim and successfully settled false advertising claim. 338 F. Supp. 2d 422 (approving settlement) and 309 F. Supp. 2d 401 (granting in part motion to dismiss) (E.D.N.Y. 2004)

Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences v. City of New York

Represented leading art museums and other cultural institutions across the country as amici curiae in the First Amendment litigation over the City of New York’s unsuccessful efforts to punish the Brooklyn Museum of Art for a controversial exhibition. (2d Cir. 2000) Read more

The Procter & Gamble Co. v. Bankers Trust

Represented Business Week in successfully overturning a prior restraint against publication of sealed court records. (6th Cir. 1996)

Professional & Community Activities

  • Board Member and Former Chair, The Fund for Modern Courts, 1975-present
  • Board Member and Former Chair, Legal Affairs Committee, Association of Magazine Media, 2004-present
  • Co-founder, Media Law Resource Center
  • Advisory Board, Media Law Reporter, 1990-present
  • Former Chair, Committee on the Judiciary and the Committee on Communications and Media Law, Association of the Bar of the City of New York
  • Founder, Lankenau Kovner & Outten, which merged with Davis Wright Tremaine in 1998
  • Member and Former Chair, New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct, 1976-1990
  • Corporation Counsel of the City of New York, 1990-1991

Professional Recognition

  • Corporation Counsel Award for Distinguished Service, New York City Law Department, 2012
  • Named one of "America's Leading Lawyers for Business" in First Amendment Litigation (Nationwide) by Chambers USA, 2007-2014
  • Named one of "America's Leading Lawyers for Business" in Media & Entertainment: First Amendment Litigation (New York) by Chambers USA, 2003-2014; Received "Band 1" ranking, 2012, 2014. Cited as "an undeniably superb lawyer” and a “tenacious litigator who knows his area backward and is never stuck for an idea."
  • Named one of the "Best Lawyers in America" in First Amendment Law by Best Lawyers, 1995-present
  • Selected to "New York Super Lawyers," Thomson Reuters, 2007-2013