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OCTOBER 14, 2014 – Victor A. Kovner, a partner in the media and First Amendment practice at Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, has been honored by the New York Law Journal (NYLJ) for his career-long commitment to public service.
Kovner was recognized in the category of Lifetime Achievement in the NYLJ's 2014 list of "Lawyers Who Lead by Example." The honorees were celebrated at a dinner last night in Manhattan.
According to the NYLJ, the awards recognize "attorneys in our community who have made an outstanding contribution by providing free legal services to low- and moderate-income New Yorkers and/or who have devoted their time to public service in the form of improvement to the courts, the laws or the profession."
An accompanying article in the NYLJ, the largest-selling legal daily in the country, described the sweep of Kovner's career, noting that he represented "a Who's Who" of "journalism giants" during "the heyday of New Journalism when writers were pushing the boundaries of free speech." Kovner was particularly recognized for his successful representation of book publisher Holt Rinehart and Winston in a defamation case that went to New York's highest court in 1977 and expanded the scope of speech protection.
Kovner's passion for the practice area has remained "undiminished," the NYLJ said, even as the Internet has changed a lot of law in the areas of defamation and privacy. "After 52 years of practicing law," the NYLJ wrote, "Kovner said that he cannot think of a morning when he did not look forward to coming to the office."
In addition to his work on behalf of private clients, Kovner has also "played a keen role in city and state politics," said the NYLJ. Among other activities, he served as the City's corporation counsel under former Mayor David N. Dinkins.
Kovner's efforts to improve the judicial system have been extensive. In 1974, he was the youngest member of a statewide Task Force on Court Reform, whose work culminated in a constitutional amendment that provided for merit selection, rather than election, of judges to the New York Court of Appeals. In the years since, Kovner has chaired the New York State Commission on Judicial Conduct, the City Bar Association's Judiciary Committee, and the Fund for Modern Courts. He has also served as a member of the Mayor's Advisory Committee on the Judiciary. In 2012, Kovner was honored by the New York City Law Department with its Corporation Counsel Award for Distinguished Service.
Last month, Kovner and 12 other community leaders were appointed to an emergency task force on hate crimes created by New York City Public Advocate Letitia James.
Kovner received his B.A. from Yale University in 1958 and his J.D. from Columbia Law School in 1961. He was a founder of Lankenau Kovner & Outten, which merged with Davis Wright Tremaine in 1998.
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