Jay Ward Brown


Tel 202.508.1136
Fax 202.661.2299
Washington, DC

Jay Ward Brown has been representing news and entertainment companies for more than two decades. He has litigated libel, privacy, copyright, subpoena, and access matters in the U.S. Supreme Court, federal and state appellate courts, and trial courts around the country.

Jay has been described in Chambers USA as “a lawyer who delivers continuously high-quality service,” possesses “impeccable analysis and impressive writing skills,” and has a “friendly, approachable and attentive demeanor [that] sees clients wanting to use him exclusively.”

For a number of years, Jay served as national defamation counsel to the NAACP and was privileged to accept the NAACP’s Civil Rights Champion Award “for outstanding pro bono service and commitment to advancing civil rights and social justice.”

As a public television journalist before law school, Jay produced or wrote many of the late Fred W. Friendly’s award-winning programs on the Constitution, the press, law, and ethics. In 2007, Jay took a three-year leave from private practice to help Hiscox, a Lloyd’s of London insurance syndicate, open its U.S. claims operations. He headed the company’s North American media claims unit until he returned to his law practice in 2010. Mr Brown was one of the founding attorneys of the highly regarded First Amendment boutique law firm Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz in 1997, which merged with Ballard Spahr in October 2017.

Representative Experience

  • Successfully defended The New York Times in an action brought by a prominent cancer researcher who headed a department at a major university and who claimed that a news report about alleged problems with research papers he authored or co-authored defamed him. The district court granted The Times’s motion to dismiss the Complaint and the Sixth Circuit affirmed. Jay argued for The Times in both courts.
  • Defended CBS in a defamation action arising from a news report on its New York television station about a federal raid on an adult entertainment club in New York. The New York Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of three individualplaintiffs’ defamation claims against CBS. The court held that the news report was not “of and concerning” the three plaintiffs, allegedly managers of the club, as none were mentioned or otherwise reasonably understood as referred to in the report.
  • Defended former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and Slate.com in a defamation action filed by a former insurance executive arising out of a piece of commentary by Gov. Spitzer regarding a series of criminal prosecutions he had initiated while attorney general. The district court granted the defendants’ motion for judgment on the pleadings, and dismissal of the action was affirmed on appeal.
  • Successfully defended Washington City Paper in the defamation action filed by Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder over a profile titled “The Cranky Redskins Fan’s Guide to Dan Snyder.” After City Paper filed its motion to dismiss invoking the District of Columbia’s then-brand new anti-SLAPP statute, Snyder voluntarily dismissed his lawsuit.
  • Served as lead counsel for a coalition of national news organizations that successfully moved several times to intervene and to obtain access to the proceedings and record during the first September 11-related criminal prosecution. Among other successes, Jay persuaded the Fourth Circuit to issue a writ of mandamus ordering the trial judge to provide same-day access to trial exhibits.
  • Served as lead counsel for Clear Channel Communications and its sports journalist Paul Finebaum in the Alabama Supreme Court in a defamation action brought by another sports broadcaster who claimed that Finebaum had, on air, implied he was homosexual. After Jay first persuaded the Supreme Court to reverse its initial refusal to hear an interlocutory appeal from a trial court order denying summary judgment, the court reversed on the merits and rendered judgment for Finebaum.
  • With his colleague Lee Levine, successfully represented the media defendants in Bartnicki v. Vopper, a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case arising out of the radio broadcast of a tape recording of a cell phone conversation between two teachers’ union officials. The Supreme Court upheld the dismissal of the plaintiffs’ claims under the federal wiretap act and reaffirmed the principle that the press cannot be held liable for publishing truthful information about a matter of public concern absent a governmental interest of the highest order, at least where it played no role in the source’s unlawful acquisition of the information.

Professional Activities

Trial Law Institute, Member

Diversity Law Institute, Member

Media Law Resource Center, Defense Counsel Section, President

Media Law Resource Center Institute, past Board of Trustees member and past Chair

Law360, past Media and Entertainment Editorial Advisory Board

ABA Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section, Media, Privacy & Defamation Law Committee, past Vice Chair

ABA Forum on Communications Law, past Governing Board

Trinity College, Adjunct Instructor in Law of Mass Communications, 1999-2003

University of Maryland School of Journalism, Adjunct Instructor in Media Law, 1995-1996

Recognition & Accomplishments

The Legal 500, Media and Entertainment: Litigation, 2020

The Best Lawyers in America, media law, 2013-2021; "Lawyer of the Year," Media Law (Washington, D.C.), 2014

Chambers USA, ranked nationwide for media & entertainment law and First Amendment litigation, and in Washington, D.C., for media & entertainment law

Washington, D.C., Super Lawyers, media & advertising, 2007, 2016-2018

American Bar Association Silver Gavel Award for Public Service

Fellow, Litigation Counsel of America, 2019


Co-author, "Sixth Circuit Sides with The New York Times in Defamation Suit," Ballard Spahr alert, July 19, 2019

Co-author, "News Organizations Win Release of Search Warrant Materials in Michael Cohen Cases," Ballard Spahr alert, May 22, 2019

Co-author, "Federal Judge Permits 'Snap Removal' in Defamation Suit," Ballard Spahr alert, February 15, 2019

Co-author, "Court: White House Violated Constitution in Yanking CNN Press Pass," Ballard Spahr alert, November 16, 2018

Co-author, "Nevada Court Grants Anti-SLAPP Motion by the Associated Press on Fair Report Grounds," MLRC MediaLawLetter, August 2018

Author, "Nevada Court Rejects Defamation Claim Brought Against Associated Press by Casino Mogul," Ballard Spahr alert, August 24, 2018

Co-author, "West Virginia Court Rejects Claim Opioid Reports Defamed Pharmacist," Ballard Spahr alert, August 23, 2018

Co-author, Newsgathering and the Law, Lexis Law Publishing, 5th ed., 2018

"Mind the Gap: Companies Face Marketing-Related Legal Claims That Their CGL Insurance Policies No Longer Cover," Risk & Insurance, December 2011

"'The Assange Effect': WikiLeaks, The Espionage Act and the Fourth Estate," Media Law Resource Center Bulletin, August 2011

"The Reporter's Privilege in the Third Circuit," The Reporter's Privilege Compendium, 2006

New York University School of Law (J.D. 1992, cum laude)
Fellow, Arthur Garfield Hays Civil Liberties Program

Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism (M.S. 1985, with honors)

University of Minnesota at Minneapolis (B.A. 1984)
Phi Beta Kappa

District of Columbia


New York


U.S. Supreme Court

U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Second, Third, Fourth, Sixth, Eighth, Ninth, and District of Columbia Circuits

U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland

U.S. District Courts for the Eastern, Northern, and Southern Districts of New York

U.S. District Courts for the Eastern and Western Districts of Virginia