Ashley I. Kissinger

Of Counsel
Tel 303.376.2407
Fax 303.296.3956
Tel 303.376.2407
Fax 303.296.3956

Ashley Kissinger has a nationwide practice representing content publishers in First Amendment and related matters. Her primary clients are the news media, entertainment companies, advocacy organizations, individual journalists, and authors. She leverages her significant expertise in this space to help non-media companies manage risk arising from their websites, social media, and other communications. Ashley defends complex defamation, invasion of privacy, copyright, and other cases arising from content. She fights for her clients' right to attend court proceedings and other government meetings, and to obtain government records. She also represents members of the media who are subpoenaed as third parties in criminal and civil litigation.

Ashley has particular expertise in anonymous speech law and is recognized as a national leader on the subject. She is also one of a small cadre of American media lawyers that has been given the opportunity to champion the development of a free and independent press in Yemen, Kuwait, and other countries in the Arabian Peninsula. She has drafted proposed amendments to press laws, advised reporters on developing a code of ethics, and taught free expression law to lawyers, editors, and journalists in the region.

Prior to her firm's merger with Ballard Spahr in 2017, Ashley was a partner for 13 years at the top-ranked media law firm Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, LLP.

Judicial Clerkship

Hon. Sam Sparks of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas

Representative Experience

  • Obtained a declaratory judgment for the Electronic Frontier Foundation under the SPEECH Act, a federal statute enacted in 2010 to combat "libel tourism." The United States District Court for the Northern District of California held that an Australian injunction attempting to censor EFF for publishing a "Stupid Patent of the Month" article is repugnant to U.S. law and public policy and is therefore unenforceable.
  • Successfully challenged, on behalf of the Boulder Daily Camera, a motion to seal the entire case file of a juvenile defendant who had been charged as an adult with attempted murder. The court’s ruling recognized, as a matter of first impression in Colorado, a First Amendment right to access court records filed in criminal proceedings, even in cases involving juvenile defendants. Ashley also persuaded the court to vacate an unconstitutional prior restraint order it had entered earlier in the case that would have forbidden the newspaper from publishing information contained in an arrest warrant affidavit.
  • Successfully defended KMGH-TV, Denver's ABC affiliate, in a defamation action arising from an investigative news report. The court granted the station's motion to dismiss and awarded its attorneys' fees.
  • Successfully defended the Orange County Register against breach of contract and invasion of privacy claims based on the newspaper's refusal to remove reader comments posted on its website. The trial court's dismissal of the suit under California’s anti-SLAPP statute was upheld on appeal and the court awarded the paper its attorneys' fees.
  • Successfully defended CBS in Chicago against claims that it invaded plaintiffs' privacy and caused emotional distress by filming them in the backyard of a home in connection with a CBS news report. The case stands as a significant precedent vindicating the news media's right to photograph persons and activities in "plain view" from a public street.
  • Successfully represented a Maryland newspaper publisher in a civil rights action against government officials, securing a landmark ruling from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit that the defendants' off-duty mass purchase of newspapers on the eve of an election, to suppress the newspaper’s contents and retaliate against the publisher, violated the publisher’s First Amendment rights. The defendants paid the publisher close to a half million dollars in settlement of the action.

Professional Activities

ABA First Amendment and Media Litigation Committee, past Co-Chair

ABA Women in Communications Law Committee, past Co-Chair

ABA Forum on Communications Law

International Senior Lawyers Project

Colorado Bar Association

Colorado Women's Bar Association

Boulder County Bar Association

Trinity Washington University, Adjunct Instructor in Law of Mass Communications, 2003

Recognition & Accomplishments

Recognized individually by The Legal 500 US as part of the nation's top-ranked First Amendment law practice, with clients describing her as "intellectually keen" and "a pleasure to work with."

Named by 5280 magazine as a Top Lawyer in Media/First Amendment law, 2015-2019

Named as a Super Lawyer in Colorado for Media & Advertising, 2019

Law Week Colorado, People's Choice for Best Communications/Media Law Attorney, 2015


Co-author, "Government Attorneys—Tell Your Clients They Can't Censor People on Social Media," Bloomberg Law Insight, September 3, 2019

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

Co-author, "Second Circuit Affirms That President Trump's Blocking of Opponents on His Twitter Account Violates First Amendment," Ballard Spahr alert, July 10, 2019

"Anonymous Online Speech," Communications Law in the Digital Age, Practising Law Institute, 2018

"Internet Law," ABA Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Law Journal, Winter 2017 

"Federal Court Applies SPEECH Act to Declare Foreign Libel Injunction Unenforceable in the United States," Ballard Spahr alert, November 2017 

"The Truth About Fake News," The Financial Manager, May/June 2017

"The Internet: Anonymous Speakers to the Single-Publication Rule," Newsletter of the ABA Litigation Section’s First Amendment and Media Litigation Committee, Winter 2011

"Untangling the Legal Labyrinth: Protections for Anonymous Online Speech," Journal of Internet Law (Aspen Publishers), Vol. 13 No. 9, March 2010

"Shielding Jane and John: Can the Media Protect Anonymous Online Speech?" Communications Lawyer, ABA Forum on Communications Law, July 2009

"Policing Privacy: How U.S. Law Navigates the Boundary Between Free Speech and Private Facts," Media Law Resource Center, September 2007

"Civil Rights and Professional Wrongs: A Female Lawyer’s Dilemma," 73 Texas Law Review 1419, 1995

Speaking Engagements

"Protecting Anonymous Online Speech," Media Law Resource Center, Digital Law Conference, San Francisco, May 21, 2019

"Litigating Online Speech Cases: Perspectives from Both Sides of the Bar," Colorado Women's Bar Association Annual Convention, May 18, 2019

"Help Your Business Clients Reduce Risk from Social Media Posts and Other Communications," Colorado Bar Association – Business Law Institute, Denver, September 12, 2018

"How to Keep Your Clients (and Yourself!) From Getting Sued for Defamation," Colorado Bar Association, Englewood, Colorado, April 5, 2018

"Hold the Presses? But I Thought the Student Press was 'Independent'!" National Association of College and University Attorneys, Washington, D.C., February 1, 2018

"Corporate Communications: The Legal Minefields and How to Avoid Them," Boulder County Bar Association, Boulder, Colorado, June 14, 2017

"Privacy and the Media," University of Colorado Law School (Guest Lecturer), Boulder, Colorado, September 8, 2016

"The Hottest Ethical Issues: Native Advertising, Virtual Reality, and 360 Video," Media Financial Management Association 56th Annual Conference, Denver, Colorado, May 25, 2016

"Investigative Journalism: What are the Legal and Ethical Boundaries?" Media Financial Management Association 53rd Annual Conference, New Orleans, Louisiana, May 21, 2013

"Ethics in Media: What Risks Arise When Journalists Use Social Media?" Media Financial Management Association 52nd Annual Conference, Las Vegas, Nevada, May 22, 2012

"Legal Risks Online," Colorado Broadcasters Association, Denver, Colorado, March 2, 2012

"Unmasking John Doe: The Law Governing Subpoenas for Anonymous Online Speakers," Denver Internet Lawyers Working Group, Denver, Colorado, March 3, 2011

"The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same? Protection for Defamatory, Offensive and Anonymous Speech in the Analog and Digital Eras," ABA Forum on Communications Law 16th Annual Conference, Rancho Mirage, California, February 4, 2011

"Yemeni Journalist Syndicate Working Sessions," International Research and Exchanges Board Inc. (IREX), Amman, Jordan, May 24-27, 2009

"Navigating Your Way Through Legal Issues on the Web," Radio-Television News Directors Association, Las Vegas, Nevada, April 2009

"Rights of Protestors, Demonstrators and the Press," presentation for Denver-area law enforcement agencies in connection with the Democratic National Convention, Denver, Colorado, June 13, 2008

"Media Law in the Gulf: Judiciary and Freedom of Press Workshop," International Research and Exchanges Board Inc. (IREX), Kuwait City, Kuwait, June 9-10, 2007

"International Freedom of Expression Law," training for Kuwaiti journalists, editors, lawyers, and government officials hosted by Kuwait Journalists Association (on a grant from Middle East Partnership Initiative, U.S. Department of State), June 4-6, 2007, Kuwait City, Kuwait

"Media Laws in the Arabian Gulf and Yemen: Opportunities and Challenges," International Research and Exchanges Board Inc. (IREX), Amman, Jordan, December 7-8, 2006

University of Texas School of Law (J.D. 1995, with honors)

Associate Editor, Texas Law Review

Stanford University (A.B. 1990)

Stanford-in-Florence, Florence, Italy, Spring 1989




District of Columbia

U.S. Supreme Court

U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Fourth, Fifth, 10th, and District of Columbia Circuits

U.S. District Courts for the District of Colorado

U.S. District Courts for the Central and Northern Districts of California

U.S. District Court for the the District of Columbia

U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland

U.S. District Courts for the Northern and Western Districts of Texas