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Well-known free-speech attorney Douglas Mirell is leaving the law firm he co-founded with Charles Harder, saying he feels the company’s work for clients like President Donald Trump doesn’t reflect his interest in protecting the First Amendment and that longtime clients were threatening to take their cases elsewhere.
When Harder, Mirell and Jeffrey Abrams formed Harder Mirell & Abrams in 2013, Mirell says the focus was on representing A-list clients, living and dead, in right-of-publicity cases, typically involving the use of famous names and likenesses in advertising without permission. But the veteran entertainment litigator says he never could have imagined how the firm would evolve over the next five years, and its new direction became a significant problem for him. Harder has increasingly been in the spotlight for taking on high-profile cases against media companies on behalf of clients including Trump; his wife, Melania; Harvey Weinstein; and ex-Amazon Studios chief Roy Price.
“I found myself increasingly uncomfortable with the docket of matters we were handling,” says Mirell. “They seemed irreconcilable with my core commitment to the defense of the First Amendment.”
He traces the beginning of the shift to the firm’s representation of Hulk Hogan in his explosive invasion-of-privacy lawsuit that garnered a $140 million verdict and bankrupted Gawker Media.
“Following the Hulk Hogan case, the firm focused its practice more and more on reputation issues that entailed adversity to major media companies,” says Mirell. “I had spent much of my career defending media companies, and I have been involved with the ACLU since I became a lawyer.”
While Mirell won’t identify any single issue as the final nail in the coffin, he says his clients had major concerns about Harder’s representation of Trump.
“I have had longstanding clients of mine who have expressed consternation at that representation and who have said to me that they will not send work to me so long as I am associated with a firm that represents those kinds of clients,” says Mirell.
Harder on Friday sent The Hollywood Reporter a brief statement in response to Mirell’s exit. “After five outstanding years with Doug Mirell as our partner, he received an enticing offer from another firm and decided to accept it,” Harder said. “We wish him all the best at his new firm, and hope he is as huge a success there as he was with us.”
Mirell, whose clients have included the Association of American Publishers, SAG-AFTRA, Halle Berry and Bradley Cooper, will be joining Greenberg Glusker in its litigation department next week.
“We are proud to have an attorney of Doug’s stature and reputation join our firm,” said Greenberg Glusker managing partner Bob Baradaran in a statement Friday. “We always welcome attorneys who are best in class in their fields as well as those who live the values of our firm by representing clients who uphold First Amendment values and who work to ensure equal access to justice.”
“I’m looking forward to the next chapter,” says Mirell. “I’m hoping to be a part of an increasingly large cadre of lawyers who appreciate and want to continue to defend the First Amendment from attacks wherever those attacks emanate from.”
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