Jonathan S. Abady | Partner at Emery Celli Brinckerhoff Abady Ward & Maazel LLP

Jonathan S. Abady

Jonathan S. Abady, a founding partner of the firm, has a diverse trial and litigation practice, with extensive experience in both federal and state courts.

Mr. Abady is currently co-lead counsel representing the City of Hoboken in ground-breaking climate change litigation attempting to hold members of the fossil fuel industry accountable for infrastructure damage and environmental harm. In the area of civil rights, Mr. Abady was on the team of lawyers who helped free Meek Mill, the Roc Nation recording artist wrongfully imprisoned in Philadelphia; he represented the family and Estate in the tragic Cleveland police shooting case involving 12-year-old Tamir Rice; he is one of the lead lawyers in two major class actions resulting in historic reform in the New York City jail system at Rikers Island; and he litigated significant voting rights cases in both the Bush-Gore and Obama-McCain Presidential elections. In the 2020 Presidential election, Mr. Abady was co-lead counsel in voter suppression and voter protection cases in three states.

In the United States Supreme Court, Mr. Abady successfully litigated and argued Gasperini v. The Center for Humanities, a seminal case in Seventh Amendment jurisprudence now featured in law school case books and taught throughout the country.

In 2019, City & State named Mr. Abady one of the 50 most influential lawyers in New York. Since 2008, he has been named as a Super Lawyer and in The Best Lawyers in America as one of New York’s top attorneys in the area of civil rights law. See  He has appeared on 60 Minutes, CNN, MSNBC, National Public Radio (NPR) and a number of other national and international media outlets. Mr. Abady has also been a guest lecturer at the New York University School of Law and the Columbia University School of Law.

Mr. Abady also has extensive experience litigating commercial and corporate disputes in New York and throughout the country.

Mr. Abady has helped recover in excess of $100 million in individual jury verdicts and settlements. Some of the individuals and clients he has represented over the years include Harry Belafonte, Carl Bernstein, internationally acclaimed artist Donald Sultan, former world heavyweight boxing champion Tim Witherspoon, Pulitzer Prize-nominated photojournalist Arthur Grace, author and activist Philip Agee, recording star Ronnie Spector, former Chief Investment Officer at Citigroup Marc P. Weill, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Penguin Putnam, Urban Box Office Network, and numerous high-level executives in contract negotiations and employment disputes.

Mr. Abady began his legal career as a trial lawyer, and was then a supervising attorney with the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, a national demonstration project in New York City that provides criminal defense services to indigent residents of the Harlem community. Prior to entering law school, Mr. Abady lived in Latin America and worked in international human rights. In 1987, he presented testimony to the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland concerning the war in Nicaragua.

Representative Cases:

  • Nunez v. City of New York, No. 11 Civ. 5845 (S.D.N.Y.) (Co-lead counsel in historic class action litigation with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Legal Aid Society which secured historic injunctive reform on Rikers Island and $3.5 million in damages for individual plaintiffs).
  • In Re Anonymous (E.D.N.Y.) ($8.8 million settlement in federal civil rights action for abuse of child in foster care).
  • Winston, et al. v. City of Cleveland et al., No. 14 Civ. 2670 (N.D. Ohio) (Co-lead counsel representing the estate and family of Tamir Rice, the 12 year-old boy fatally shot by the Cleveland police which settled for $6 million).
  • Griffin v. City of New York, No. 14 Civ. 7329 (S.D.N.Y.) (Co-lead counsel in Rikers Island prisoner abuse case resulting in $5.75 million settlement, the largest payment for a death in custody in the history of New York City).
  • Hagerman v. Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, No. 03 Civ. 1579 (D.D.C.)(Recovered, with other members of the Firm, more than $40 million as part of historic $2.7 billion settlement with the government of Libya for the downing of Pan Am Flight 103; litigation which created an exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act).
  • Gasperini v. the Center for Humanities (Landmark ruling in the United States Supreme Court involving the re-examination clause of the Seventh Amendment).
  • In Re Harry Belafonte and the Estate of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (Successfully represented Harry Belafonte in action to recover historic memorabilia gifted by Martin Luther King, Jr.).
  • Kesmai v. AOL, 97 Civ. 1544 (E.D.Va.) (Obtained settlement in large-scale antitrust litigation representing a subsidiary of News Corporation against America Online (AOL)).
  • Daniels v. City of New York, No. 13 Civ. 6286 (S.D.N.Y.) ($2.75 million settlement on behalf of Ronald Spear who died as a result of “blunt force trauma” to the head while incarcerated at Rikers Island).
  • NAACP v. Cortez  (In conjunction with the Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia and Voter Action, landmark injunction obtained on the eve of the Obama-McCain 2008 Presidential election requiring Pennsylvania to make emergency paper ballots available to avoid disenfranchisement of prospective voters).
  • Jacobs v. Seminole County Canvassing Board (Challenge to unlawfully altered absentee ballots in Florida during the Bush-Gore 2000 Presidential election recount).
  • Doe v. Unocal, Nos. 00-56628, 00-57195 (2d. Cir.)(One of originating lawyers in litigation against French and American oil companies involved in slave labor practices along the Bhurma-Thailand border).
  • Rice v. City of New York (Recovered $1.3 million in civil rights suit against the City of New York for excessive force).
  • Morales v. New York City (Jury verdict of $3.1 million in civil rights excessive force case).
  •  Black v. Getchell and K.P. Rent-a-Car (Jury verdict of $1.3 million in wrongful death action).

Attorney News


New York University School of Law, J.D., 1990

Root-Tilden-Snow Scholar
Best Oralist
Orison S. Marden Moot Court Competition
Colloquium Editor, Review of Law & Social Change

American University, B.A., magna cum laude, 1983


U.S. Supreme Court
U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit
U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York
U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York
U.S. District Court, Northern District of New York
New York
New Jersey


The New Press
Board of Directors
Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem
Board of Trustees
Board of Advisors
Police Abuse Lawyers Coalition
New York City Bar Association
Faculty, Continuing Legal Education
National Criminal Justice Commission
Panel of Advisors
The Federal Bar Council
Association of the Bar of the City of New York
The American Bar Association (ABA)

Recent Publications

Jill Stein has done the nation a tremendous public service,” Washington Post, December 15, 2016

Tamir Rice and the Deeper Issues of Police Violence,” The Cleveland Plain Dealer, December 4, 2015

Reclaim Our Democracy,” U.S. News, November 4, 2014