Mel Gibson, Larry King, Oksana Grigorieva and the ACLU Tangle with First Amendment in Divorce Case


Pasadena family law attorneys might wonder how the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Larry King, Mel Gibson and Gibson's ex-girlfriend, Oksana Grigorieva, all got tangled up in a First Amendment dispute at the Los Angeles County Superior Court's family law division. On Thursday, December 30, the ACLU stepped in to stop Mel Gibson's legal team from a largely closed-door attempt to bar Oksana Grigorieva's lawyer, Martin Garbus, from representing her.

Garbus appeared with Grigorieva on Larry King's talk show, commenting on aspects of Grigorieva and Gibson's divorce proceedings. The move by Gibson's lawyers, including prominent family law attorney Stephen A. Kolodny, to bar Garbus from the case is a result of some of the public statements Garbus made on the broadcast. The ACLU has taken up the cause of Garbus, citing the move as an infringement on Garbus' First Amendment rights. The organization has made it clear that they are only interested in the free speech implications, and not interested in the final outcome of the divorce proceedings.

"This is about whether a lawyer can be stopped from representing a client who wants that lawyer, because of public statements," says Peter J. Eliasberg, ACLU. "The ACLU believes, in principle, that only very limited restrictions can be placed on lawyers" in relation to the public comments they may make.

The ACLU's letter brief said that Gibson's lawyers objected to Garbus' statement on the Larry King broadcast that Gibson "doesn't want to pay any support for the child." However, the ACLU argues that nothing in Garbus' statements "in one television appearance on the Larry King show will have any continuing effect" on the legal proceedings.