Elizabeth C. Koch

Senior Counsel

Tel 202.508.1128
Fax 202.661.2299
Washington, DC

Elizabeth C. "Betsy" Koch's practice spans a broad range of legal issues affecting the media, from the defense of defamation and privacy actions, to reporter's privilege and subpoenas of news organizations, to copyright and related intellectual property litigation.

For more than 30 years, Betsy has represented large and small publishers and broadcasters in cases in state and federal courts throughout the United States. She also serves as regular newsroom counsel for press clients, including POLITICO, Newsweek, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and the Chronicle of Philanthropy.

The Legal 500 US has hailed Betsy as "top-notch" and "intellectually keen." She has been profiled by the American Bar Association's Women in Communications Law Committee.

Betsy was one of the founding partners 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

  • Defended the makers of the documentary The Price of Sugar, which depicted the inhumane treatment of Haitian cane-cutters on sugar plantations in the Dominican Republic, in a defamation action brought by plantation owners. In a significant decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit held that the plaintiffs are public figures who must establish actual malice in order to prevail. Subsequently, the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed the litigation, with no money paid and no changes to the film.
  • Successfully defended Bill Moyers and Public Affairs Television, Inc., in a false light invasion of privacy action arising from an episode of the television program Moyers & Company. The court dismissed the case, holding that the lawsuit was untimely because, although the claim was styled as a false light claim, it was actually a disguised defamation claim subject to a shorter, one-year statute of limitations.
  • Successfully defended Arkansas-based television station KATV in a suit brought by a doctor who claimed he was defamed by a news report on his reprimand by the state medical board. The court dismissed the case after the station argued for dismissal based on the wire service defense and the state's anti-SLAPP statute.
  • Successfully defended Communications Daily against defamation and misappropriation of trade secrets claims over a report that raised questions about the plaintiffs' telecommunications license preparation services. The plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed their lawsuit prior to deposition discovery.
  • Successfully defended a reporter in quashing a subpoena issued by the Palestinian Authority in a lawsuit brought by an Israeli settler under the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act. The court reaffirmed the principle that the qualified reporter's privilege in civil actions extends to journalistic work product that is not confidential.

Professional Activities

Media Law Resource Center, Co-Chair of Insurance Committee

ABA Forum on Communications Law, past Governing Board member

Communications Lawyer, past Editorial Board member; past Editor

District of Columbia Bar Association, Intellectual Property Law Section, past Steering Committee member

Recognition & Accomplishments

The Best Lawyers in America, media law, Washington, D.C., 2012-2021; First Amendment law, 2021

Washington, D.C., Super Lawyers, media & advertising, 2010-2011, 2013-2017


"Survey of DC Circuit Libel Law," Annual Media Libel Law Survey

"Maryland – Open Courts Compendium," Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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

The University of Michigan Law School (J.D. 1986, cum laude)

Vassar College (A.B. 1983, with honors)

District of Columbia


U.S. Supreme Court

U.S. Courts of Appeals for the First, Second, and Fourth Circuits

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

U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia

U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland