Robert Corn-Revere has defended free speech in some of the nation’s most notable cases. Since he began practicing law in 1983, Corn-Revere has dedicated significant time to pro bono work, and he is the chair of DWT’s Pro Bono and Public Service Committee.
Bob, why do you think it's important for lawyers to provide pro bono representation?
I am proud to be part of a profession where a certain amount of public service is expected. But the importance of pro bono work is not limited to the fact that it is a part of our professional responsibility as lawyers. I don’t see this like a mandate to “eat your vegetables” because they are good for you. More than a responsibility, I view pro bono work as an opportunity for both personal and professional development. It offers a chance to work on matters that are entirely different from your day-to-day work, or, if you prefer, to get even more in-depth and advanced experience in your chosen field. More importantly, it provides an opportunity to work on issues that you believe are important.
What inspired you to focus your life's work on First Amendment rights?
I first got seriously interested in First Amendment issues when I worked as a reporter for a small-town newspaper in Illinois. My interests broadened in graduate school, as I studied the history and regulation of broadcasting and other regulated media. By the time I arrived at law school, I knew I wanted to practice First Amendment law.
What was the most notable or memorable pro bono case you’ve had?
One of my first cases stands out because it allowed me to do my first argument in the D.C. Circuit as a third-year associate. My client was challenging the constitutionality of one of the FCC’s political broadcasting rules, and I argued the case before Judges Robert Bork, Kenneth Starr, and Carl McGowan. We lost, but the case provided some extremely valuable experience.
For something completely different, there was the petition to New York Governor George Pataki to grant a posthumous pardon to the late comedian Lenny Bruce. This time, we were successful. This was memorable for many reasons, including the significant press coverage the pardon got, but also because it provided the opportunity to meet a number of really interesting people, like Lenny’s daughter, Kitty Bruce.
Read more about Davis Wright Tremaine's pro bono program here.
This article was published in DWT's Midyear 2010 Pro Bono Report.