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American Bar Association

First Amendment & Media Litigation Committee



The First Amendment & Media Litigation Committee is one of the 42 practice groups open to all members of the American Bar Association’s Section of Litigation. Joining the committee entitles a member to a number of benefits (see list below). The committee takes an active interest in virtually every aspect of First Amendment and media litigation, including defamation, rights of privacy and publicity, media access to information and news events, reporters’ and authors’ rights, news-gathering torts, injunctions, gag orders, and prior restraints. The committee focuses on practical litigation strategies and techniques relevant to these issues and advocates positions within the ABA on legal matters that may affect First Amendment rights.

To accomplish these goals, the committee provides its members with these benefits:

  • Timely news updates and substantive articles relevant to committee members’ First Amendment and media-law practices
  • A semiannual newsletter that is available exclusively to committee members and includes an annual survey of this area of law
  • The cosponsoring of an annual media litigation conference each winter, typically bringing together more than 200 media lawyers from across the country
  • CLE programs at the ABA Annual Meeting and Section of Litigation Annual Conference
  • A Young Lawyers Subcommittee that provides networking and mentorship opportunities
  • A Diversity Outreach Subcommittee devoted to providing minority lawyers with opportunities to practice and network with First Amendment and media litigation attorneys
  • A Legislation Subcommittee reporting on legislative developments affecting First Amendment interests


Whether you want to receive the newsletter, learn from and network with First Amendment and media-law practitioners from around the country, contribute to our programs and publications, or all of the above, join us. Section of Litigation members may join up to three committees at no charge.

To join, you must first be a member of the ABA and also a member of the ABA Section of Litigation.


MLRC/NAA/NAB 2012 Media Law Conference

The Newspaper Association of America (NAA), National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), and the Media Law Resource Center (MLRC) will cosponsor the 2012 NAA/NAB/MLRC Media Law Conference September 12–14, 2012. The conference will focus on defamation, privacy, editorial tort, news-gathering, and intellectual property issues, and it’s designed exclusively for defense counsel. More information will be available on this conference as the event draws nearer.

Reporters Committee First Amendment Awards Dinner

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press First Amendment Awards Dinner, September 27, 2012 at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, D.C., brings together leading figures in journalism and media law for an evening of socializing, dinner, and honoring those who have made significant accomplishments in the fight to protect and advance the First Amendment and freedom of the press.

Communications Law in the Digital Age

This year’s Practising Law Institute (PLI) program, Communications Law in the Digital Age, November 15–16, 2012, in New York, New York, will highlight the hottest issues and case law in media, digital communications, intellectual property, and privacy law. Reflecting an increased focus on the legal ramifications of an increasingly digital media environment, the program features a remarkable faculty comprising the country’s leading practitioners and in-house First Amendment and media-law counsel.

ABA Forum on Communications Law Annual Conference

The American Bar Association’s Forum on Communications Law will hold its 18th Annual Conference February 7–9, 2013, at the St. Regis Monarch Beach in Dana Point, California.

ABA Section of Litigation Annual Meeting

The ABA Section of Litigation will offer litigators more than 60 substantive CLE programs, more than 200 speakers, and numerous opportunities to network at its annual conference at the JW Marriott in Chicago April 24–26, 2013. Hear and meet the advocates and judges who handle the most important litigation issues in courthouses across the country that affect your law practice.

Join the New Young Lawyers Subcommittee

You’ve earned your J.D. You’ve passed the bar. Some of you have landed at a firm that does First Amendment or media work; others aren’t quite there, but the ultimate goal is a career practicing First Amendment or media law.

So what can the Young Lawyers Subcommittee of the Section of Litigation’s First Amendment & Media Litigation Committee do for you? Here are just some of the reasons to become a member.

First, membership gives you the opportunity to meet and know practitioners who are on the cutting edge of First Amendment and media law. For instance, each winter, the committee, along with the ABA Forum on Communications Law and the Media Law and Defamation Torts Committee of the ABA Torts and Insurance Practice Section, cosponsors a media litigation CLE conference that typically brings together more than 200 media lawyers from across the country. These lawyers include in-house counsel, outside counsel, and lawyers from major media-law organizations such as the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the Media Law Resource Center, and Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, among others.

“Our committee members litigate every aspect of First Amendment and media law,” says Jonathan Donnellan, deputy general counsel at Hearst Corporation and a committee chair. “That includes traditional issues, such as defamation, privacy rights, access to news events and government information, newsgathering torts, prior restraints, and emerging issues such as anonymous speech on the web. It’s exciting to be involved with a group of lawyers that have such impressive talents, expertise, and knowledge. As a new lawyer starting out in practice, you have an opportunity to get to know these practitioners.”

Second, being a member gives you the chance to network with your peers—other new lawyers who are interested in the same areas of law. “We wanted to create a subcommittee to make sure that those new to or interested in our practice areas can meet others who share their interests, concerns, and perspective,” says Ashley Kissinger, a partner at Levine, Sullivan, Koch & Schulz, LLP, and another committee chair. “Practicing media and First Amendment law is not like practicing commercial litigation. You may be one of only a handful of lawyers in your community who litigate in this area of the law. So having a regional or even a national network becomes that much more important.”

Third, being a member gives you access to committee news and information relevant to First Amendment and media-law practice, such as our annual survey of case law that is available exclusively to committee members. The committee also sponsors CLE programs at the ABA Annual Meeting and the Section of Litigation Annual Conference on a variety of issues affecting First Amendment and media interests. Our webpage is one of the go-to resources for media-law practitioners to learn about recent news and read substantive articles on media-law subjects. Committee members’ submissions receive publication priority, and publishing on our webpage is a great way to get your name in front of media-law practitioners. This, in turn, is one of the most effective ways of enhancing your stature within the media-law bar.

The Young Lawyers Subcommittee’s first projects will include starting a mentoring program, providing opportunities to connect with fellow members, and creating a Facebook page. We welcome new members as well as comments and suggestions for making this group fun, useful, and effective for its members. Sarah Duran, an associate at Davis, Wright, Tremaine, is spearheading the effort to organize the Young Lawyers Subcommittee. If you are interested in joining the group, please contact her at sarahduran@dwt.com or at 206-757-8035.

First Amendment & Media Litigation Events

The First Amendment & Media Litigation Committee is on the lookout for upcoming conferences, CLE programs, webinars, and other events that address First Amendment and media litigation matters. If you are sponsoring such an event and would like help in spreading the word, please contact Itai Maytal, events clearinghouse coordinator, at imaytal@mkslex.com.

Message from the Chairs

Welcome to our web page. Our committee strives to provide those interested in First Amendment and media litigation with content, programs, publishing, and leadership opportunities that are not available elsewhere, and we hope you will take advantage of these unique benefits.

We recently formed three new subcommittees—Young Lawyers, Legislation, and Diversity Outreach. These subcommittees provide excellent opportunities to get your foot in the door of the organization at the ground level and shape its development. Lots of exciting things are happening with these subcommittees in the summer of 2012. We will hold our first Legislation Subcommittee meeting. We are presently looking for two people willing to cochair our new Young Lawyers Subcommittee, and our Diversity Outreach Program is on the verge of launching three initiatives: a fellowship program, “road shows” to law schools, and one-on-one lunch meetings with underrepresented students.

Our web page and electronic newsletter provide great opportunities to write on topics of interest to you, and we accept content of varying lengths for these publications. Volunteer to be our Program Chair and help us produce the high-quality programs for which our committee is famous within the Section of Litigation. If you’d like to get involved or have questions or suggestions concerning the committee, we invite you to call or email us.

Ashley Kissinger
Jonathan Donnellan
Cochairs, First Amendment & Media Litigation Committee


Our active subcommittees include:

  • Website
  • Newsletter
  • Membership
  • Young Lawyers


  • Diversity Outreach
  • Legislation
  • Events Clearinghouse

Find contact information for committee and subcommittee chairs:


First Amendment & Media Litigation Leadership

Cochairs Web Editor Newsletter Editors

Jonathan Donnellan

New York, NY

Katherine M. Bolger

New York, NY

Gail Appleson

St. Louis, MO

Steven Mandell

Chicago, IL

Elizabeth Morris

Chicago, IL