Ashley I. Kissinger

Of Counsel

kissingera@ballardspahr.com
Tel 303.376.2407
Fax 303.296.3956
Denver

Ashley Kissinger defends content publishers in trial and appellate courts nationwide and helps them reduce their legal risk. For nearly two decades she has represented news, entertainment, and other media clients, including broadcast networks, newspaper and magazine publishers, radio and television stations, documentary and other film producers, industry newsletter publishers, journalists, and the digital press, in First Amendment and related matters. Prior to her firm’s merger with Ballard Spahr, Ms. Kissinger was a partner for 13 years at the top-ranked media law firm Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, LLP.

Ms. Kissinger defends complex defamation and invasion of privacy cases, represents journalists who are subpoenaed, fights for access to government information and freedom from prior restraints, reviews content prior to its publication, and protects her clients’ intellectual property rights. She also represents individuals and non-media companies in connection with their websites, social media posts, and other content. She has deep expertise in anonymous online speech law and is recognized as a national leader on the subject, serving as the lead author of a comprehensive work published by the Practising Law Institute. She has been tapped for leadership positions in the First Amendment bar and is regularly asked to speak and write about media law issues.

Ms. Kissinger has championed the development of a free and independent press in Yemen, Kuwait, and other countries in the Arabian Peninsula. She has drafted proposed amendments to press laws, advised reporters on developing a code of ethics, and taught international free expression law to lawyers, editors, and journalists. She has also presented on U.S. media law at several conferences in the Middle East.

Judicial Clerkship

Hon. Sam Sparks of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas

Representative Experience

  • Obtained a declaratory judgment for the Electronic Frontier Foundation under the SPEECH Act, a federal statute enacted in 2010 to combat "libel tourism." The United States District Court for the Northern District of California held that an Australian injunction attempting to censor EFF for publishing a "Stupid Patent of the Month" article is repugnant to U.S. law and public policy and is therefore unenforceable.
  • Successfully challenged, on behalf of the Boulder Daily Camera, a motion to seal the entire case file of a juvenile defendant who had been charged as an adult with attempted murder. The court’s ruling recognized, as a matter of first impression in Colorado, a First Amendment right to access court records filed in criminal proceedings, even in cases involving juvenile defendants. Ms. Kissinger also persuaded the court to vacate an unconstitutional prior restraint order it had entered earlier in the case that would have forbidden the newspaper from publishing information contained in an arrest warrant affidavit.
  • Successfully defended KMGH-TV, Denver’s ABC affiliate, in a defamation action arising from an investigative news report. The court granted the station’s motion to dismiss and awarded its attorneys’ fees.
  • Successfully defended the Orange County Register against breach of contract and invasion of privacy claims based on the newspaper’s refusal to remove reader comments posted on its website. The trial court’s dismissal of the suit under California’s anti-SLAPP statute was upheld on appeal and the court awarded the paper its attorneys’ fees.
  • Successfully defended CBS in Chicago against claims that it invaded plaintiffs’ privacy and caused emotional distress by filming them in the backyard of a home in connection with a CBS news report. The case stands as a significant precedent vindicating the news media’s right to photograph persons and activities in “plain view” from a public street.
  • Successfully represented a Maryland newspaper publisher in a civil rights action against government officials, securing a landmark ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit that the defendants’ off-duty mass purchase of newspapers on the eve of an election, to suppress the newspaper’s contents and retaliate against the publisher, violated the publisher’s First Amendment rights. The defendants paid the publisher close to a half million dollars in settlement of the action.

Professional Activities

ABA First Amendment and Media Litigation Committee, past Co-Chair

ABA Women in Communications Law Committee, past Co-Chair

ABA Forum on Communications Law

International Senior Lawyers Project

Colorado Bar Association

Colorado Women’s Bar Association

Boulder County Bar Association

Trinity Washington University, Adjunct Instructor in Law of Mass Communications, 2003

Recognition & Accomplishments

Recognized individually by The Legal 500 as part of the nation’s top-ranked First Amendment law practice, with clients describing her as "intellectually keen" and "a pleasure to work with."

Named by 5280 magazine as a Top Lawyer in Media/First Amendment law, 2017-2018

Law Week Colorado, People’s Choice for Best Communications/Media Law Attorney, 2015

Publications

"The Truth About Fake News," The Financial Manager, May/June 2017

"Internet Law," ABA Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Law Journal, Winter 2017

"Anonymous Online Speech," Communications Law in the Digital Age, Practising Law Institute, 2015 (and 2016 update)

"The Internet: Anonymous Speakers to the Single-Publication Rule," Newsletter of the ABA Litigation Section’s First Amendment and Media Litigation Committee, Winter 2011

"Untangling the Legal Labyrinth: Protections for Anonymous Online Speech," Journal of Internet Law (Aspen Publishers), Vol. 13 No. 9, March 2010

"Shielding Jane and John: Can the Media Protect Anonymous Online Speech?" Communications Lawyer, ABA Forum on Communications Law, July 2009

"Policing Privacy: How U.S. Law Navigates the Boundary Between Free Speech and Private Facts," Media Law Resource Center, September 2007

"Civil Rights and Professional Wrongs: A Female Lawyer’s Dilemma," 73 Texas Law Review 1419, 1995

Speaking Engagements

"Corporate Communications: The Legal Minefields and How to Avoid Them," Boulder County Bar Association, Boulder, Colorado, June 14, 2017

"Privacy and the Media," University of Colorado Law School (Guest Lecturer), Boulder, Colorado, September 8, 2016

"The Hottest Ethical Issues: Native Advertising, Virtual Reality, and 360 Video," Media Financial Management Association 56th Annual Conference, Denver, Colorado, May 25, 2016

"Investigative Journalism: What are the Legal and Ethical Boundaries?" Media Financial Management Association 53rd Annual Conference, New Orleans, Louisiana, May 21, 2013

"Ethics in Media: What Risks Arise When Journalists Use Social Media?" Media Financial Management Association 52nd Annual Conference, Las Vegas, Nevada, May 22, 2012

"Legal Risks Online," Colorado Broadcasters Association, Denver, Colorado, March 2, 2012

"Unmasking John Doe: The Law Governing Subpoenas for Anonymous Online Speakers," Denver Internet Lawyers Working Group, Denver, Colorado, March 3, 2011

Plenary Session Panelist, "The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same? Protection for Defamatory, Offensive and Anonymous Speech in the Analog and Digital Eras," ABA Forum on Communications Law 16th Annual Conference, Rancho Mirage, California, February 4, 2011

Co-Moderator, "Yemeni Journalist Syndicate Working Sessions," International Research and Exchanges Board Inc. (IREX), Amman, Jordan, May 24-27, 2009

Panelist, "Navigating Your Way Through Legal Issues on the Web," Radio-Television News Directors Association, Las Vegas, Nevada, April 2009

Co-Presenter, "Rights of Protestors, Demonstrators and the Press," presentation for Denver-area law enforcement agencies in connection with the Democratic National Convention, Denver, Colorado, June 13, 2008

Panelist, "Media Law in the Gulf: Judiciary and Freedom of Press Workshop," International Research and Exchanges Board Inc. (IREX), Kuwait City, Kuwait, June 9-10, 2007

Sole Instructor and Moderator, "International Freedom of Expression Law," training for Kuwaiti journalists, editors, lawyers, and government officials hosted by Kuwait Journalists Association (on a grant from Middle East Partnership Initiative, U.S. Department of State), June 4-6, 2007, Kuwait City, Kuwait

Panelist, "Media Laws in the Arabian Gulf and Yemen: Opportunities and Challenges," International Research and Exchanges Board Inc. (IREX), Amman, Jordan, December 7-8, 2006


University of Texas School of Law (J.D. 1995, with honors)

Associate Editor, Texas Law Review

Stanford University (A.B. 1990)

Stanford-in-Florence, Florence, Italy, Spring 1989

Colorado

California

Texas

District of Columbia

U.S. Supreme Court

U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Fourth, Fifth, 10th, and District of Columbia Circuits

U.S. District Courts for the District of Colorado

U.S. District Courts for the Central and Northern Districts of California

U.S. District Court for the the District of Columbia

U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland

U.S. District Courts for the Northern and Western Districts of Texas