John F. Banzhaf, III

Portrait of John F. Banzhaf III
Professor of Law
2000 H Street, NW
Washington, District Of Columbia 20052
[email protected]

John F. Banzhaf III [pronounced Banz-half] is a nationally-known professor and practitioner of public interest law. Professor Banzhaf has been called the "Ralph Nader of the Tobacco Industry," "Mr. Anti-Smoking," a "Man Who Lives by his Writs," the "Father of Potty Parity," a "Legal Terrorist," a "Legal Flamethrower," and one of the 100 most powerful persons in Washington (twice, by Regardie's).

As a young lawyer, John Banzhaf brought a legal action which required all broadcast stations to provide free time for anti-smoking messages. Subsequently, after founding Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) to serve as the legal-action arm of the antismoking community, he helped drive cigarette commercials off the air, and started the nonsmokers' rights movement by first getting no-smoking sections—and then smoking bans—on airplanes and in many other public places. Professor Banzhaf and ASH have played a major role in the war on smoking and for nonsmokers' rights, including promoting and helping to mastermind law suits against the tobacco industry, and in defending the legal rights of nonsmokers in hundreds of legislative, administrative, and judicial proceedings.

Professor Banzhaf teaches Torts, Administrative Law, Disabled People and the Law, Law and the Deaf, and a unique world-famous course—"Legal Activism"—where students learn to become public interest lawyers by bringing their own legal actions. He and his students are widely known for bringing hundreds of innovative public interest legal actions including one of the leading Supreme Court environmental law suits, forcing the Cosmos Club to admit women, persuading the FTC to require "corrective advertising," preventing dry cleaners from charging women more than men to launder their shirts, suing Spiro T. Agnew to recover the bribes he received, safety standards for school buses, clearer warnings on birth control pills, smoke detectors in airplane lavatories, auto bumper standards, new police procedures for dealing with wife beaters, the end to a scheme to defraud veterans, greater roles for blacks on television, clearer labeling of foods, and many other victories.

Professor Banzhaf received his undergraduate degree in Electrical Engineering from M.I.T, and for a time worked as a scientist and engineer, writing several published technical papers, and obtaining two U.S. patents. At Columbia University's law school, he was an Editor of the Law Review, obtained the first copyright ever registered on a computer program, helped persuade Congress to amend the copyright statute to include data processing, and developed a new mathematical technique -- now termed the "Banzhaf Index" -- for determining voting power in complex voting situations. [See, e.g.,]. Professor Banzhaf serves as the faculty adviser for the GWU Volleyball Team, and was recently admitted to the World Technology Network, and has also been in the news recently regarding using legal action against the problem of obesity in some of the same ways he pioneered in its use against the problem of smoking [obesity links].



BSEE, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; JD, Columbia University

In the News

"How War Made the Cigarette"

September 25, 2019
John F. Banzhaf III is mentioned by the New Republic on his role in convincing the government to require tobacco companies to run ads in prime time.

"Is It An Impeachable Offense If There's No Quid Pro Quo Between Trump and Ukraine?"

September 25, 2019

John F. Banzhaf III discussed on FOX News Channel's "Your World With Neil Cavuto" what constitutes an impeachable offense.

"In Spite of Trans Discrimination, Universities Are Grappling with Military Recruitment on Campus"

August 05, 2019
John F. Banzhaf, III discussed on WAMU's "The Kojo Nnamdi Show" the impact of banning military recruitment on campus over transgender discrimination.

"Amy Wax Controversy Drags Penn Law Into Free-Speech Dilemma"

July 25, 2019
John F. Banzhaf III is quoted by on a free speech controversy surrounding a professor at the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

“Majority Want Citizenship Question On Census, 53%-32%"

July 07, 2019

John F. Banzhaf III is quoted by The Washington Examiner on how a citizenship question could still appear on the 2020 census.