Judge Murray Gurfein in “The Post”

Those of you who have seen the current film, “The Post“, about the Washington Post ‘s perspective on the New York Times and the publishing of the Pentagon Papers, may have very briefly heard the name Murray Gurfein.

You may remember that Murray Gurfein was the subject of a blog post a year ago, detailing his involvement with HIAS (twice serving as president), a short recap of his legal career, and his connection with the case against the New York Times, as a federal judge, when the Nixon administration sued the Times to cease publication.

I caught Judge Gurfein’s name two times in the film. First when Post staff were watching the evening news when Gurfein’s injunction against the Times was announced, and Walter Cronkite referred to him by name, as Judge Murray Gurfein. And second when one of the Post‘s legal team, in continuing to make a case against publication with Tom Hanks as Ben Bradlee, refers to Judge Gurfein’s injunction.

We’d love to know if anyone catches other references to Judge Gurfein in “The Post”, or in any articles about the film or in discussions of the Pentagon Papers.

The issue of Freedom of the Press was challenged by the Nixon administration in 1971 surrounding the publication of the Pentagon Papers, and the protections guaranteed by the First Amendment remain critical to the free and open democracy we are privileged to enjoy in the United States. And Murray Gurfein, to us, has come to represent what continues to be honorable and important in the work that HIAS does.



3 thoughts on “Judge Murray Gurfein in “The Post”

  1. I did catch the references in The Post you noted to Judge Gurfein’s injunction in the New York Times case relating to the Pentagon Papers. It was not made clear that the injunction was temporary, for five days, in order to allow the Judge to review the materials to be published. On June 19, Judge Gurfein lifted the injunction and ruled that the Papers could be published. His eloquent and oft quoted decision was immediately appealed, and wound up being heard by the US Supreme Court together with the Post’s case. The US Supreme Court expressly upheld his decision as to the NYT case, while also ruling that the Post could publish.
    “…A cantankerous press, an obstinate press, a ubiquitous press must be suffered by those in authority in order to preserve the even greater values of freedom of expression and the right of the people to know…These are troubled times.There is no greater safety valve for discontent and synicism about the affairs of Government than freedom of expression in any form. This has been the genius of our institutions throughout our history. It is one of the marked traits of our national life that distinguish us from other nations under different forms of government…”

    Thank you for keeping Murray Gurfein’s memory alive. The reference in the Post was incomplete, at best (understandably since the movie was from the perspective of the Post). Through his work for HIAS and in the secular world, my grandfather was involved in many interesting episodes of history.
    His memory is for a blessing, as we say.

    Martha Rosett

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Martha, thanks very much for the additional detail. I also think it is important to remember historic moments in history like the Pentagon Papers, and the historic judicial rulings written by brilliant, thoughtful, pragmatic judges.

      Liked by 1 person

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