Director, Individual Rights Defense Program
Ari Cohn is an attorney who joined FIRE to defend civil liberties after leaving private practice in Chicago, where he represented large multinational companies in high-stakes litigation. He regularly comments on First Amendment issues in the press, appearing in national and international television and radio broadcasts as well as in various print and online publications.
Ari is the director of FIRE’s Individual Rights Defense Program, which engages in direct advocacy on behalf of students who have suffered violations of their rights, and he speaks regularly to diverse audiences about the importance of free speech, with a particular emphasis on bridging ideological divides and finding mutual understanding. Ari has authored and co-authored briefs to state and federal courts across the country, including the Supreme Court of the United States.
Ari earned his J.D. cum laude from Cornell Law School, and his B.A. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. A native of Skokie, he studied the famous ‘National Socialist Party of America’ case at an early age, which cultivated a profound respect for the First Amendment, and a lifelong passion for free speech issues. He brings a diverse perspective on student disciplinary issues as well; as an undergraduate, he served on the University of Illinois’ student conduct hearing committee, and later returned to work as a legal intern in its Office of University Counsel. Ari is a member of the Illinois State Bar and the First Amendment Lawyers Association.
- “’30 Years After Courtroom Win for Gay Student Group, Former Plaintiff Still Demands Free Speech for His Opponents,” April 3, 2015
- “University of Chicago Students Disregard Context, Call for Ban on ‘Hate Speech’ After Dan Savage Lecture,” June 6, 2014
- “Western Michigan University Bans Rapper, Burdens Free Expression,” April 18, 2014
- “Threat of Honor Code Charges Causes Texas Student Group to Cancel Event,” November 21, 2013