Matthew E. Kelley

Associate He / Him / His
Washington, DC

Matthew E. Kelley advises and represents media companies, journalists, filmmakers, bloggers, and other content creators in a wide range of legal issues. His experience in state and federal courts across the country includes defending clients against defamation, privacy, and copyright claims; litigating Freedom of Information Act and other access matters; challenging subpoenas for privileged information; and other issues implicating First Amendment rights. Matt also counsels clients on legal issues involving newsgathering and intellectual property.

Before beginning his legal career, Matt was an award-winning investigative reporter for the Associated Press and USA Today. As a journalist, he covered a variety of issues and institutions, including Congress, the Pentagon, and national politics.

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

Experience 

Representative Matters

Matt worked on legal teams that:

  • Successfully defended producers of a documentary about gun violence from defamation claims by a gun-rights advocacy group and two of its members who were interviewed for the film. A federal trial court dismissed the complaint in Virginia Citizens Defense League v. Couric, holding that the challenged scene was neither false nor defamatory.
  • In Broker’s Choice of America, Inc. v. NBCUniversal, Inc., successfully represented the network  in federal court and at the 10th Circuit in a defamation action involving a hidden-camera report on the plaintiffs’ sales seminars for insurance agents. The 10th Circuit affirmed the trial court’s ruling that the undercover recordings of the seminar showed that the gist of the report—that the plaintiffs taught insurance agents to use scare tactics to sell potentially inappropriate financial products to the elderly—was substantially true.
  • Working pro bono, persuaded law enforcement authorities in North Dakota to release cameras and equipment seized from visual journalists who were arrested on misdemeanor charges while covering the clearing of protest camps at the site of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Professional Highlights

Professional Activities

American University School of Communication, Adjunct Instructor of Media Law

ABA Forum on Communications Law

Native American Journalists Association

UNITY: Journalists of Color, past Secretary

Publications

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

Co-author, "Recent Developments in Media, Privacy, Defamation, and Advertising Law," ABA Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Law Journal, Spring 2019

"Results Removed: Fighting Deindexing Abuse," The Current: The Journal of PLI Press, Summer 2017

Credentials 

Education

George Washington University Law School (J.D. 2012, with high honors)
Articles Editor, The George Washington Law Review
Order of the Coif

Kent State University (B.A. Journalism 1991, summa cum laude)
Editor, Daily Kent Stater

Admissions

Virginia

District of Columbia