ABA Journal: Modern Law Library

John Lennon’s lawyer explains how the musician’s deportation case changed immigration law

When immigration attorney Leon Wildes got a call from an old law school classmate in January 1972 about representing a musician and his wife who were facing deportation, their names didn’t ring a bell. Even after meeting with them privately at their New York City apartment, Wildes wasn’t entirely clear about who his potential clients were. He told his wife that he’d met with a Jack Lemon and Yoko Moto.

“Wait a minute, Leon,” his wife Ruth said to him. “Do you mean John Lennon and Yoko Ono?”

What Wildes didn’t know when accepting the Lennons’ case was that he and his clients were facing a five-year legal battle which would eventually expose corruption at the highest levels of the Nixon administration and change the U.S. immigration process forever. His account of that legal battle is told in “John Lennon vs. the USA: The Inside Story of the Most Bitterly Contested and Influential Deportation Case in United States History.”

Leon Wildes and his son Michael (now a managing partner at the firm his father founded, Wildes & Weinberg) joined the ABA Journal’s Lee Rawles to discuss the legacy of the case and the effect it’s had on the entire family.