Skip to main content

COVID-19 Update

Read the Library Reopening FAQ and other COVID-19 updates. Library staff are providing online services and support.

Arthur L. Liman papers

Call Number: MS 1762

Scope and Contents

The papers document the career of Arthur Liman, primarily the period from the Iran-Contra investigation in 1987 until his death in 1997. The Iran-Contra diary and audiotapes are of particular interest as they provide insight into Liman's private thoughts during the hearings. A movie script Liman later wrote about Iran-Contra reflects his opinion about how the events took place. The collection offers a wide variety of visual resources, including photographs of Liman from the early 1950s through the 1990s. Videotapes in the collection include copies of many of Liman's television interviews concerning Iran-Contra. The correspondence in the collection offers little personal perspective and the papers include limited documentation of Liman's private practice or his law firm.


  • 1950-2001


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Original audiotapes and videotapes, as well as preservation masters and duplicating masters, may not be played. Consult the finding aid and/or a reference archivist to determine availability of a use copy or the process required to generate a use copy.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright has been transferred to Yale University for unpublished materials authored or otherwise produced by the creator(s) of this collection with the exception of the Iran-Contra Diary, the copyright of which will transfer to Yale University on November 22, 2024. Copyright status for other collection materials is unknown. Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17, U.S.C.) beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commercially exploited without permission of the copyright owners. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user. Check deed of gift for a specific date in 2024.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Ellen Liman, 1999, 2003. Transferred from the Yale Law School Arthur Liman Center for Public Interest Law, 2018.


Arranged in four series and two additions: Series I. Legal Papers, 1963-1995. Series II. Personal Papers and Photographs, 1950-1999. Series III. Writings, 1957-1998. Series IV. Audiovisual Materials, 1978-1998.


28.42 Linear Feet (104 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The papers consist of correspondence, diaries, legal documents, speeches, writings, printed material, photographs, and audiovisual materials that document the career of Arthur Liman. The papers emphasize the 1987 Iran-Contra hearings but also document many of Liman's other professional activities, including the Attica Prison uprising investigation and the Michael Milken trial. The papers contain an extensive collection of audiotapes and videotapes featuring conversations with and interviews of Liman.

Biographical / Historical

Arthur Liman was born on November 5, 1932, in New York City. He graduated from Harvard in 1954 with a B.A. degree and proceeded to Yale Law School, graduating first in his class in 1957. Over the next forty years, Liman worked in disparate arenas to build a distinguished legal career, combining numerous public assignments and a private practice that included representing some of the country's most prosperous individuals and corporations.

After leaving Yale Law School in 1957, Liman joined the firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison in New York City. In 1961, he left the firm to become an assistant United States attorney under Robert M. Morgenthau and developed expertise in business law. Liman continued in the field of business law upon his return to Paul, Weiss in 1963, specializing in cases involving securities fraud and other white-collar crimes. According to newspaper accounts and tributes from his friends and colleagues, Liman was known for his thorough preparation and extraordinary commitment to his clients and was considered one of the best trial lawyers of his time. As a result, he attracted many powerful and well-known clients. Not shy of controversy, Liman represented junk bond merchant Michael Milken and corporate raider Carl Icahn. Adroit in corporate backrooms, he facilitated the merger of Time Inc. and Warner Communications.

Despite his success in private practice, Liman gained more notoriety as a result of his public assignments. Two appointments in particular defined his career. In 1972, he served as chief counsel of the New York State Special Commission on the Attica Prison uprising. The commission was charged with investigating the uprising at Attica State Prison in 1971 in which forty-three inmates and guards died. The commission's final report, which blamed prison conditions and state officials for the violence, was published in book form and nominated for a National Book Award. Liman's most widely-known assignment came in 1987 when he was appointed chief counsel to the Senate Select Committee on Secret Military Assistance to Iran and the Nicaraguan Opposition (the Iran-Contra Committee). The committee held hearings to make public the details of the clandestine operation selling weapons to Iran in exchange for the release of hostages and directing the arms proceeds to rebels in Nicaragua. The hearings, especially his cross-examination of Colonel Oliver North, put Liman in the national spotlight. The attention was not easy to bear, however, as the committee received criticism both for being too hard and too soft on witnesses and for its inability to trace knowledge of the operation to President Ronald Reagan.

Liman's public service extended beyond Attica and Iran-Contra. Among his other assignments were a 1979 suit in which he represented New York City against subway car manufacturers, winning a $72 million award, and heading the 1985 investigation of the New York City medical examiner amid charges that the examiner had provided false autopsy reports. In addition, he was active in organizations working to provide legal representation to those who could not afford it otherwise, serving terms as president of the Legal Aid Society and chairman of the Legal Action Center.

Arthur Liman married Ellen Fogelson, a writer, painter, and interior decorator, in 1959. They had three children: Lewis, Emily, and Douglas.

Arthur Liman died on July 17, 1997, in New York City.
Guide to the Arthur Liman Papers
Under Revision
compiled by Mike Strom
June 2002
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

Yale University Library
P.O. Box 208240
New Haven CT 06520-8240 US
(203) 432-1735
(203) 432-7441 (Fax)


Sterling Memorial Library
Room 147
120 High Street
New Haven, CT 06511

Opening Hours