Press Release

Ballard Spahr Helps National Press Club Win Freedom for Mexican Journalist

August 1, 2018

A team of Ballard Spahr lawyers, led by Charles D. Tobin and Steven D. Zansberg, represented the National Press Club and other media organizations in the fight to free Mexican journalist Emilio Gutiérrez Soto and his son from federal detention. Both were released on July 26.

Mr. Gutiérrez and his son fled the Mexican border state of Chihuahua in 2008 after Mr. Gutiérrez, a reporter covering government and military corruption, began receiving death threats. Both men petitioned for asylum upon arriving in the United States.

After living and working legally in the United States for almost a decade, they were denied asylum. The judge did not find it credible that Mr. Gutiérrez received death threats because of his reporting. In December 2017, a few months after they were denied asylum and were awaiting an appeal, they were arrested and detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Mr. Tobin and Mr. Zansberg, both former journalists, drafted and filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the National Press Club and 19 other professional journalism organizations supporting a writ of habeas corpus seeking freedom for Mr. Gutiérrez and his son. After holding the men for nearly eight months, ICE released both men.

Mr. Tobin and Mr. Zansberg also have filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the National Press Club and other journalism groups challenging the denial of asylum. The brief offers evidence—including more than 100 of Mr. Gutiérrez's newspaper clippings and reports by expert groups outlining the dangers facing journalists in Mexico—that Mr. Gutiérrez was threatened as a result of his work. The asylum appeal is pending.

Mr. Tobin, based in the firm's Washington, D.C., office, co-leads Ballard Spahr's Media and Entertainment Law Group. The group is a national standard-bearer in supporting the First Amendment rights of groups and individuals.

Mr. Zansberg, a Partner in the firm's Denver office, joined Ballard Spahr as part of the October 2017 merger with Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, a preeminent First Amendment litigation boutique firm. The combined team has played a leading role in many of the most significant First Amendment cases in recent years.

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