Lee R. Crain is a litigation associate in the New York office of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. Mr. Crain’s practice focuses on a broad-range of high-stakes trial and appellate litigation in both federal and state courts. Mr. Crain has experience litigating cases involving media and entertainment, tech, employment disputes, and the First Amendment. Mr. Crain also has significant experience with crisis counseling and fast-paced, emergency litigation and has led teams seeking or defending against temporary restraining orders and preliminary injunctions in multiple matters.
Mr. Crain has argued before federal and state courts (trial and appellate) in high-profile cases, including defeating a motion for a temporary restraining order filed against a former Prime Minister of Mongolia in State Agency for Policy Coordination v. Batbold (N.Y. Sup. Ct.), prevailing on a preliminary injunction motion in the firm’s historic First Amendment victory in Turner v. USAGM (D.D.C.), as well as successfully defending against motions to dismiss certain claims in litigation filed against members of the Trump Administration in Buchanan v. Trump (D.D.C.). Mr. Crain has participated as a lead associate on some of the firm’s recent historic victories, including CNN v. Trump, Karem v. Trump, Turner v. USAGM, and Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo, and has been a core member of multiple trial teams. Mr. Crain’s work has been covered in The Washington Post, NPR, CNN and other outlets both domestic and foreign.
Recent highlights include:
- First Amendment. Mr. Crain was one of the lead associates on teams representing CNN and White House correspondent Jim Acosta as well as Playboy’s White House Correspondent Brian J. Karem in multiple victories that prohibited members of the Trump administration from suspending Mr. Acosta’s and Mr. Karem’s press pass credentials. Mr. Crain was also one of the lead associates in the firm’s victory in the United States Supreme Court in Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn v. Cuomo. Mr. Crain was one of the lead lawyers representing executives of the U.S. Agency for Global Media and Voice of America in First Amendment litigation against members of the Trump Administration, culminating in a historic victory in Turner v. USAGM, which confirmed that government-employed journalists have First Amendment rights. Turner v. U.S. Agency for Global Media, 2021 WL 2201669 (D.D.C. May 17, 2021). Mr. Crain’s work in Turner earned him and his colleagues recognition as a runner-up Litigator of the Week.
- High-Stakes Commercial Litigation. Mr. Crain represented AMC in eight-figure profit participation litigation over the hit television series The Walking Dead, including prevailing in an appeal that led to the dismissal of key claims. Mr. Crain has also successfully represented clients in multiple defamation matters, including Facebook and Twitter, as well as individuals sued for defamation by coworkers. Mr. Crain has also represented Lynn Tilton and Patriarch Partners in a variety of matters, including during a two-week bench trial in the Delaware Court of Chancery, in multiple appeals before the Delaware Supreme Court and in New York State, and in a jury trial in New York State Supreme Court. Mr. Crain has experience in a broad variety of other commercial disputes, including representing a major software company in a customer dispute and a whiskey distillery defending against claims of copyright infringement, both culminating in successful resolutions. Mr. Crain was also a member of the team representing Barnes & Noble and successfully defeated a multi-district antitrust litigation arising from Barnes & Noble’s higher education content-distribution.
- Employment Litigation. Mr. Crain has represented clients in multiple employment disputes, including lawsuits regarding restrictive covenants, trade secrets, confidentiality obligations, whistleblower retaliation, and employment discrimination. Mr. Crain, for instance, represented a globally leading fashion model agency in litigation seeking (and procuring) a temporary restraining order prohibiting former employees from engaging in anti-competitive behavior harming the agency’s business. Mr. Crain also represents a major insurance brokerage in litigation arising from claimed violations of restrictive covenants of the company’s new employees. Mr. Crain has represented a national media company and a healthcare management company in employment discrimination and whistleblower retaliation lawsuits, respectively, including arguing an appeal before the New York Appellate Division that affirmed the dismissal of whistleblower retaliation claims against the healthcare company. Mr. Crain has also served as lead associate representing the Legal Aid Society for the City of New York in multiple lawsuits bringing federal and New York State employment claims, including in lawsuits alleging Legal Aid engaged in reverse-discrimination.
- Transnational Litigation. Mr. Crain has represented clients in multiple international arbitration confirmation proceedings, including successfully opposing a sham $18 billion arbitral award against Chevron and representing shareholders of Devas Multimedia Private Ltd. in nine-figure confirmation proceedings in multiple federal courts against the Republic of India and its instrumentalities. Mr. Crain is also one of the lead lawyers in multiple litigations representing a former Prime Minister of Mongolia, including successfully defeating litigation brought in New York State Court against the former Prime Minister as well as in federal litigation brought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1782.
- Commercial Appeals. Mr. Crain has broad experience in appellate matters in the federal and State appellate courts, including in New York’s high court. Mr. Crain won a landmark decision from New York’s highest court in Congel v. Malfitano, which, in a question of first impression, established standards for dissolution of partnerships under New York law. He further prevailed before the high court in UBS v. Kainer, which adopted new civil procedure law for New York State. Mr. Crain has also litigated numerous appeals and conducted oral argument before the New York State intermediate appellate courts, including in his successful argument resulting in a unanimous victory dismissing a whistleblower retaliation suit in Frey v. Health Management Systems, Inc., 151 N.Y.S.3d 879 (1st Dept. 2021), as well as in the federal circuit courts of appeals.
- Client Counseling. Mr. Crain engages in a broad set of litigation-risk counseling, including advising a major hedge fund on litigation risks attendant to mergers and acquisitions and major media and software companies regarding risks of pursuing or defending against breach-of-contract litigation. Mr. Crain also advises clients about whether to advance claims for defamation and similar torts such as right of publicity. Mr. Crain has advised clients as to whether governmental action or proposed legislation is vulnerable to constitutional challenges.
Mr. Crain has a vibrant pro bono practice. Representative matters include:
- First Amendment & Public Right of Access. Mr. Crain is one of the lead lawyers in First Amendment litigation resulting from the attacks on peaceful protesters in Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C. in June 2020 (Buchanan v. Trump) as well as in First Amendment litigation challenging the LAPD’s practice of firing rubber bullets at peaceful protesters (Jones v. LA). Mr. Crain has also represented the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press in a variety of matters before the federal trial and appellate courts in D.C. as well as in the United States Supreme Court relating to the government’s efforts to keep sealed portions of the investigation and report of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III.
- Gun Safety Litigation. Mr. Crain is the lead associate in State of California v. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives, a lawsuit challenging the federal government’s regulation of untraceable “ghost guns,” which have wrought havoc in communities nationwide. That litigation has culminated in the federal government proposing a rule that, if adopted, would render such ghost guns unlawful. Mr. Crain has also participated in multiple Second Amendment cases in the United States Supreme Court, including representing 139 members of the House of Representatives in N.Y. State Rifle & Pistol Association v. City of New York as well as members of the business community in N.Y. State Rifle Association v. Bruen. Mr. Crain has worked extensively with the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which awarded Gibson Dunn the Richard D. Ogers Pro Bono Partner Award in 2021.
- Prison Rights Litigation. Crain served as lead counsel in Cavness v. Mirkarimi, a civil rights lawsuit asserting constitutional claims against guards at the San Francisco County Jail. Taking the case on appeal, Mr. Crain achieved a reversal of the client’s prior summary judgment loss in the trial court, succeeded in reopening discovery and amending the complaint, took and defended depositions, argued numerous motions, and prepared the case for trial, successfully settling the lawsuit on the eve of trial.
- Criminal Appeals. Mr. Crain served as lead counsel in United States v. Machen* (6th Cir.), succeeding in vacating his client’s federal racketeering conviction, and in Chambers v. State (Md. Ct. Spec. App.), challenging convictions for attempted murder and first degree assault. Mr. Crain has also represented clients in amicus briefs involving issues of criminal law and procedure, including dozens of former prosecutors and defenders in a habeas corpus petition in California as well as the Cato Institute in the Supreme Court double jeopardy case Currier v. Virginia.
- Amicus Practice. Crain has an active amicus brief practice and has represented numerous clients in amicus briefs filed in courts around the country. In San Francisco v. Trump (9th Cir.), Mr. Crain represented direct-services and policy-advocacy organizations working on behalf of LGBT immigrants supporting a challenge to the Trump Administration’s decision to defund so-called “sanctuary cities.” Mr. Crain further represented dozens of businesses in the United States Supreme Court and other courts supporting a challenge to the Trump Administration’s efforts to add a “citizenship question” to the 2020 Census. Mr. Crain has also represented members of Congress in litigation seeking to unseal records relating to the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Mr. Crain is the 2022 recipient of the Federal Bar Council’s Thurgood Marshall Award for Exceptional Pro Bono Service (Rising Star category). The award “recognizes lawyers who have gone above and beyond in making an extraordinary contribution in the area of pro bono service.” Mr. Crain is also the recipient of Gibson Dunn’s 2020 Frank Wheat Memorial Award, “given annually to individual lawyers and teams that have demonstrated leadership and initiative in their pro bono work, obtained significant results for their pro bono clients, and served as a source of inspiration to others.” Mr. Crain received the award for his work on Turner v. USAGM, which resulted in a successful preliminary injunction forbidding political interference in the journalism of Voice of America and its sister outlets and establishing that government-employed journalists have First Amendment rights. The firm’s award further recognized Mr. Crain’s “brilliant media strategy to ensure the Firm’s clients their rightful place as heroes of the story.” Mr. Crain and his colleagues also received recognition as runner-up Litigators of the Week for the victory in Turner.
Mr. Crain graduated first in his class from the University of Michigan Law School, summa cum laude, where he received the Henry M. Bates Memorial Scholarship Award—the law school’s highest honor. Mr. Crain also received the Daniel H Grady Prize and the Class of 1908 Memorial Scholarship, for highest class standing at the end of the second and third years, respectively, and certificates of merit for highest exam scores in civil procedure, criminal law, criminal procedure, contracts, jurisdiction & choice of law, and legislation & regulation. Mr. Crain served as an editor on the Michigan Law Review, where he published a note on civil liberties and national security, and was a semifinalist in the Campbell Moot Court Competition and later a member of the competition’s executive board. Mr. Crain was elected to the Order of the Coif. In 2010, Mr. Crain graduated magna cum laude from the University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in history and a minor in Spanish.
The Best Lawyers in America® has recognized Mr. Crain as “One to Watch” in Appellate Practice from 2020-2023.
Before joining the firm, Mr. Crain served as a law clerk to the Honorable Paul J. Watford of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the Honorable Sidney H. Stein of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.
Mr. Crain is admitted to practice in the State of New York as well as before the United States District Courts for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York and the District of Columbia as well as the United States Courts of Appeals for the Second, Ninth, and District of Columbia Circuits. Mr. Crain is also admitted in the United States Supreme Court.
Mr. Crain is Co-Chair of the firm’s Associate Business Development Committee and previously served as a member of the Ethics Committee.
*Representation occurred prior to Mr. Crain’s association with Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher.
- Co-Author, New York Times v. Sullivan Is Safe From Sarah Palin, Bloomberg Law (February 25, 2022).
- Co-Author, Tips for District Court Amicus Brief Success, New York Law Journal (December 24, 2020).
- Author, New York, Fix Qualified Immunity Now: Don’t Wait on the Feds, New York Daily News (June 13, 2020).
- Co-Author, Administration Should Respect Voice Of America’s Autonomy, Law360 (June 12, 2020).
- Co-Author, COVID-19 News Defamation Claims Are Unlikely To Succeed, Law360 (May 4, 2020)
- Co-Author, Trump Likely Doesn’t Have Power To Reopen Businesses, Law360 (April 15, 2020)
- Co-Author, Press Pools Protect 1st Amendment During Pandemic, Law360 (April 7, 2020)
- Co-Author, The Constitutionality of Mobile Sports Wagering in New York State, New York Law Journal (February 3, 2020)
- Co-Author, Contractual Duties to Conduct a Business in Accordance With ‘Sound Business Practices’, Delaware Business Court Insider (July 25, 2018)
- Author, Learning the Court de Novo, American Bar Association Litigation and Appellate Practice Section (December 7, 2017)
- Author, The Legality of Deliberate Miranda Violations: How Two-step National Security Interrogations Undermine Miranda and Destabilize Fifth Amendment Protections, 112 Mich. L. Rev. 453 (July 11, 2013)