Thomas Kelley, Senior Counsel in Ballard Spahr's Denver office, was honored with the Media Law Resource Center (MLRC)'s First Amendment Leadership Award at its annual conference Thursday.

The award is granted in recognition of career-length accomplishment.

"The MLRC's honor goes not only to great media attorneys, but to attorneys like Tom who have made significant contributions to the media bar," said George Freeman, executive director of the MLRC. "Among his achievements, Tom was the Chair of the MLRC's Defense Counsel Section, our most vital group, and has moderated a Trial Tales program, which takes a deep dive into the year's most important trials, for the past 30 years."

Mr. Kelley has practiced law for 47 years. He has spent the majority of his career defending newsgathering operations. He has been described by Chambers USA as "one of the best trial lawyers in the country."

"I would call it not only an honor, but overwhelming," Mr. Kelley said of receiving the award. "This group has really done more than anyone to organize and prepare the media defense bar to stand up for the First Amendment, so to be recognized in this way is really special."

Mr. Kelley has protected the public's right to access records and proceedings by defending media outlets in an array of notable cases, including the Oklahoma City bombing trials, Kobe Bryant rape prosecution, and JonBenét Ramsey murder investigation.

"Our rights to speak and publish freely are stronger today because of Tom Kelley, whose lifetime of advocacy for reporters and editors is an inspiration to us all," said David Bodney, co-chair of the firm's Media and Entertainment Law Group. "Tom has served the profession honorably, to say the least, and is very deserving of this award."

The attorneys in Ballard Spahr's Media and Entertainment Law Group represent clients ranging from local freelance journalists to entire international news organizations. They advise broadcasters, internet companies, interactive media outlets, newspapers, journalists, entertainment and advertising firms, sports teams, authors, filmmakers, public interest organizations, and others.

The MLRC was founded in 1980 by publishers and broadcasters in order to assist in defending and protecting free press rights under the First Amendment. Its Defense Counsel Section includes more than 2000 law firms that specialize in media defense.