Michael Berry


Tel 215.988.9773
Fax 215.864.8999

For nearly 20 years, Michael Berry has represented news, entertainment, and other media clients in defamation and privacy suits, fought for the right of the press and public to access government and court records, defended reporters who are subpoenaed, and advised clients on newsgathering and other First Amendment matters. He is a trial lawyer who regularly defends media companies in federal and state courts throughout the country. For example, in recent years, Michael served as trial counsel for prominent newspapers and websites, defeated an effort to subpoena reporters’ sources as part of an inquiry into alleged grand jury leaks, and succeeded in unsealing records in high-profile criminal prosecutions and high-stakes corporate litigation. In light of his accomplishments, The Best Lawyers in America named Michael its First Amendment Law Lawyer of the Year in Philadelphia for 2018 and 2020, as well as Media Lawyer of the Year in Philadelphia for 2019. Most recently, The Legal Intelligencer named him as a 2020 "Power Player," which recognizes attorneys who through their advocacy made a significant impact on public policy, legislation, or jurisprudence in Pennsylvania.

Michael speaks frequently on matters affecting the freedom of the press, and his writings about First Amendment issues have appeared in a variety of publications. Prior to practicing law, he worked on Capitol Hill for the late Senator Paul D. Coverdell (R-Ga.).

Michael was a partner at the highly regarded First Amendment boutique law firm Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, which merged with Ballard Spahr in October 2017.

Judicial Clerkship

Hon. David B. Sentelle, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

Representative Experience

  • Successfully represented The Associated Press in unsealing numerous records in the criminal cases against the former Penn State administrators prosecuted in the wake of the Sandusky scandal in Commonwealth v. Curley, 189 A.3d 467 (Pa. Super. 2018)
  • Successfully represented Dow Jones & Company, Inc. in obtaining access to records that had been filed under seal in an investor lawsuit against the controversial blood-testing company, Theranos, Inc. in Partner Investments, L.P. v. Theranos, Inc., 2017 WL 2303954 (Del. Ch. 2017)
  • Successfully defended CBS's Philadelphia television station against a lawsuit brought by a New Jersey church and pastor who claimed they were defamed by a news report describing the arrest of one of the church's preachers on child molestation charges, prevailing on summary judgment and the the plaintiff's subsequent appeal in Gordon v. CBS Broadcasting Inc.
  • Successfully represented the Virgin Islands Daily News in a defamation suit by a local judge in Kendall v. Daily News Publishing Co., 716 F. 2d 82 (3d Cir. 2013). Following a two-week jury trial, the trial court entered judgment in the newspaper’s favor. That decision was affirmed by the Virgin Islands Supreme Court in its first decision on the law of defamation, and then by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, which issued a significant ruling detailing the requirements public officials must meet when they claim to be defamed by alleged implications.
  • Successfully defended The Pocono Record in a defamation trial in which the plaintiffs claimed that the newspaper falsely accused them of selling homes at inflated prices using inflated appraisals, often leading buyers into foreclosure. After a nine-day trial in which the plaintiffs were seeking over $27 million in damages, the jury unanimously decided in under two hours that the articles were true. The verdict subsequently was affirmed on appeal in Raintree Homes v. Birkbeck.

Professional Activities

Media Law Resource Center Institute, Board of Directors

Media Law Resource Center, past Co-Chair, MediaLawLetter Committee

Pennsylvania Freedom of Information Coalition, Founding Member, Board of Directors

Pennsylvania Bar Association, past Co-Chair, Bar-Press Committee

Recognition & Accomplishments

The Best Lawyers in America, First Amendment law, First Amendment litigation, media law, 2014-2021; "Lawyer of the Year," First Amendment Law (Philadelphia), 2018, 2020, and Media Law (Philadelphia), 2019

Named as a "Power Player" by The Legal Intelligencer in its 2020 Pennsylvania Legal Awards

Named as a Lawyer on the Fast Track by The Legal Intelligencer and Pennsylvania Law Weekly in their 40 Under 40 rankings, 2009


"Pa.’s new press freedom lawyer will shine more sunlight on government," The Philadelphia Inquirer, January 21, 2020

Lead author, Pennsylvania Chapter, Reporters Privilege Compendium (Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press)

Lead author, Pennsylvania Chapter, Open Courts Compendium (Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press)

Co-author, "Survey of Virgin Islands Libel Law," Media Libel Law 2018-2019 State Survey (MLRC and LexisNexis)

"Does Pa. Really Need New Laws on Drones?" PennLive.com, January 18, 2017

"The State Office of Open Records Must Remain Independent," The Patriot-News, January 30, 2015

"Journo-Drones: A Flight Over the Legal Landscape," Communications Lawyer, June 2014

"Pennsylvania's Right to Know Law Protects the Crooks, Not the People," Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, March 11, 2012

Recent Speaking Engagements

Invited testifier, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania House of Representatives, Judiciary Committee Public Hearing, Pennsylvania Anti-SLAPP Law

Moderator, "Trial Tales: Lessons Learned from Recent High-Profile Defamation Trials," Media Law Resource Center Media Law Conference, October 1, 2020

Speaker, "The Public's Right to Access Court Records and Court Proceedings," Retreat of the Judges of the First Judicial District of Pennsylvania, September 13, 2019

Speaker and Panelist, "The First Amendment, Court Proceedings, and Judicial Records: A Discussion of the Public's Right of Access," Pennsylvania Continuing Judicial Education Program, Pennsylvanians for Modern Courts and University of Pennsylvania Law School, March 1, 2019

Moderator, "Trial Tales: Lessons Learned from Recent Media Trials," Media Law Resource Center Media Law Conference, September 27, 2018

"The Press and the First Amendment," Pennsylvania Bar Institute's Annual Civil Rights Symposium, April 12, 2018

"Basics of Internet Defamation Law," Pennsylvania Bar Institute's Annual Internet Defamation Seminar, February 9, 2018

"Legal Issues: What's Hot Right Now?" Pennsylvania News Media Association Annual Convention, November 2, 2017

"Social Media and the First Amendment," Pennsylvania Bar Institute's Annual Internet Law Update, May 15, 2017

"False Light and Implication Claims," Pennsylvania News Media Association and Pennsylvania Society of News Editors, April 21, 2017

"What You Need to Know About Drones," Drones Journalism, Pennsylvania Bar Institute Seminar, December 21, 2016

"Trial Tales: Lessons Learned from Recent Media Trials," Media Law Resource Center Media Law Conference, September 22, 2016

"Drones: Navigating a New Legal Frontier," Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs, April 28, 2015

Moderator, "You Watch Us, We Watch You: Assessing the Effects of Emerging Surveillance Technologies," Media and the Law Seminar, University of Kansas School of Law and Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association Media Law Committee, April 17, 2015

Panelist, "Navigating the Legal and Media Issues Involved in Litigating a High-Profile Case," Pennsylvania Bar Association, May 8, 2013

University of North Carolina School of Law (J.D. 2000, with highest honors)
Editor-in-Chief, North Carolina Law Review

Duke University (M.P.P. 2000)

Emory University (B.A. 1994)
Phi Beta Kappa


New Jersey

New York

U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Third, Ninth, and 10th Circuits

U.S. District Courts for the Eastern and Middle Districts of Pennsylvania

U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York