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“Mr. First Amendment.” That’s how one of Robert Corn-Revere’s clients describes the Davis Wright Tremaine partner, best known for his legal expertise in indecency and obscenity. Take Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction or Bono’s Golden Globes obscenity or Playboy’s scantily clad cable offerings — Corn-Revere, 52, has championed First Amendment values in these and other high-profile cases. “He’s the first person I think of for First Amendment law,” says Fritz Attaway, executive vice president of the Motion Picture Association of America. “I think he’s the best.” Recently, Corn-Revere represented the movie association and an array of broadcasting and advertising groups in filing extensive comments on the Federal Communications Commission’s April 2007 report on children and TV violence. The FCC wants Congress to craft an “anti-mayhem” law to protect young TV viewers. Corn-Revere says his clients “urged the commission to conclude that regulating media violence is unnecessary, unrealistic, and unconstitutional.” Five years ago, Corn-Revere led the movie association’s successful challenge to the FCC’s “video description” rule. Intended to make TV more accessible to the blind, the rule required narrated descriptions of the action in TV broadcasts to be inserted into the pauses in dialogue. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit found that the FCC lacked authority to impose such a mandate and that the rule amounted to content regulation. Corn-Revere is now preparing another appellate argument, this time before the 3rd Circuit. He represents CBS Corp., which is challenging a $550,000 indecency fine imposed by the FCC after singer Jackson flashed her breast during the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show. Oral arguments on the case are set for Sept. 11. Last month, Corn-Revere helped score a major 2nd Circuit victory for CBS in Fox Television Stations v. FCC. The FCC had found profane language in unrelated broadcasts on Fox, CBS, and ABC. In a 2-1 decision, the court held that the FCC’s policy of sanctioning “fleeting expletives” is arbitrary and capricious. The policy was skeptically remanded to the FCC to produce a “reasoned analysis.” That decision essentially meant a victory in another one of Corn-Revere’s cases. He represented a group of 24 media companies, entertainers, and First Amendment groups in a petition asking the FCC to reverse its ruling against Bono. At the 2003 Golden Globe Awards, the U2 front man observed, “This is really, really fucking brilliant.” Agency staff initially concluded the slip was OK because the offending word was used nonliterally, but it later reversed course, declaring it indecent. “Bob has a rare mixture of skills,” says Daniel Jaffe, executive vice president of government relations for the Association of National Advertisers. He cites Corn-Revere’s detailed knowledge of the FCC, his appellate experience, and his ability to write “in a way that, while legally precise, is understandable to the political community, as well.” Jaffe adds, “He understands very quickly what we’re talking about and can quickly supply us with material that we are very pleased with.” Corn-Revere considers his most significant case to be United States v. Playboy Entertainment Group (2000). As lead counsel to Playboy, he persuaded the U.S. Supreme Court that part of the Telecommunications Act violated the First Amendment. Section 505 required cable channels showing sexually explicit programs to fully scramble their signals in order to protect nonsubscribers from “signal bleed,” which would allow them see or hear part of the program. Corn-Revere describes the argument — his only one before the high court — as “a thrill.” Although he’s a first choice for major media companies, Corn-Revere has done some of his best-known work for pro bono clients. He was lead counsel for the plaintiffs in Mainstream Loudon v. Loudon County Library Board of Trustees (1998) — the first case to hold that mandatory content filtering of a public library’s Internet terminals violates the First Amendment. “I live in Loudon County [Va.], and these are the libraries my kids use,” he says. “I thought it doesn’t help our children to tell them the First Amendment doesn’t apply in libraries.” In another pro bono effort, he petitioned then-New York Gov. George Pataki in 2003 to grant the first posthumous pardon in state history to the late Lenny Bruce. The notorious comedian had been prosecuted for obscenity in 1964. When he learned the pardon had been granted, says Corn-Revere, “You could have knocked me over with a feather.” A one-time journalist, he earned a master’s degree in communications from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 1980, followed by a J.D. from Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law in 1983. He joined Steptoe & Johnson, then moved to Hogan & Hartson two years later. In 1989, he landed a job at the FCC, where he served as chief counsel to Chairman James Quello and worked to implement the Cable Act of 1992. Corn-Revere left government service in 1994 and returned to Hogan, where he remained until joining the D.C. office of Davis Wright in 2003. Well-known colleagues in the communications arena include Burt Braverman, Laura Handman, and Paul Glist.

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