Al-Amyn Sumar

Tel 202.661.7693
Fax 202.661.2299
Washington, DC

Al-Amyn Sumar represents news organizations and other media clients in a wide range of content-related matters. He has substantial experience on issues relating to defamation, privacy, copyright, access to court records and proceedings, and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and state public records laws. He has argued on behalf of media clients in both state and federal courts, including the New York Appellate Division and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

Al-Amyn rejoined the firm in 2019 from The New York Times Company, where he served as the First Amendment Fellow. In that role (and later, when he returned to The Times as a secondee), he managed the company’s FOIA docket, litigated libel cases and access motions, reviewed stories prior to publication, and advised reporters and editors on a range of legal issues. Among other things, Al-Amyn:

  • Successfully briefed The Times’s motion for access to voir dire proceedings in the high-profile trial of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán in Brooklyn. After the trial judge suggested he would entirely exclude the public and press from jury selection, The Times intervened and persuaded the judge to allow a press pool to attend. United States v. Loera, 2018 WL 5624143 (E.D.N.Y. Oct. 30, 2018).
  • Successfully briefed and argued an appeal before the First Department of the Appellate Division of New York regarding the application of a state confidentiality statute (Civil Rights Law § 50-a) to the decisions of the Office of Administrative Trials and Hearings (OATH), an independent, adjudicative tribunal for New York City agencies. The effect of the decision is to preserve public access to OATH’s records. Victor v. OATH, 174 A.D.3d 455 (N.Y. App. Div. 2019).
  • Briefed an appeal to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in ongoing litigation over The Times’s FOIA request to the Central Intelligence Agency for records regarding a former covert government program to arm and train rebels in Syria. The existence of the program was confirmed by President Trump in a July 2017 tweet. New York Times Co. v. CIA, 18-2112 (2d Cir. ongoing).
  • Successfully briefed The Times’s petition, brought under New York’s Freedom of Information Law, for release of a letter sent to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio by the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board regarding ethically and legally dubious conduct by the Mayor. The trial court rebuked the Mayor’s Office for unlawfully withholding the letter, ordered its release, and awarded The Times its attorneys’ fees. New York Times Co. v City of New York Office of the Mayor, 2020 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 147 (N.Y. Sup. Ct. Jan. 15, 2020), appeal filed (N.Y. App. Div. Feb. 12, 2020).
  • Successfully briefed The Times’s motion to dismiss a defamation suit brought by a Justice Department attorney over a story reporting allegations of his sexual misconduct. The court found the statements absolutely protected under New York’s fair report privilege. Kinsey v. New York Times Co., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 50300 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 23, 2020).

Before Al-Amyn initially joined the firm in 2017, he was with the highly regarded First Amendment boutique law firm Levine Sullivan Koch & Schulz, which merged with Ballard Spahr in October 2017.

Judicial Clerkships

Hon. J. Paul Oetken of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York

The Right Honourable Beverley McLachlin, Chief Justice of Canada

Justices of the Court of Appeal for Ontario

Professional Activities

Media Law Resource Center, Next Generation Committee, Co-Chair

American Bar Association Media Law Diversity Moot Court Competition, Co-Chair Elect

Capital Area Muslim Bar Association, Director of Public Outreach


“HIPAA Does Not Override Public Access To COVID-19 Data,” Law360, April 10, 2020

“Unpacking FOIA’s ‘Foreseeable Harm’ Standard,” Communications Lawyer, Winter 2020

“New York Court Orders Disclosure of Letter from Conflicts of Interest Board to Mayor De Blasio and Awards New York Times Its Attorneys’ Fees,” MLRC MediaLawLetter, January 2020

“Second Circuit Vacates Dismissal of Sarah Palin’s Lawsuit Against The New York Times and Remands it for Discovery,” MLRC MediaLawLetter, August 2019

“Sixth Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Cancer Researcher’s Libel Suit Against The New York Times,” MLRC MediaLawLetter, July 2019

“Judge Grants Partial Access to Jury Selection in El Chapo Trial,” MLRC MediaLawLetter, November 2018

Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Wasden and Newsgathering: More Significant Than It Appears,” Communications Lawyer, Winter 2018

“Prior Restraints and Digital Surveillance: The Constitutionality of Gag Orders Issued Under the Stored Communications Act,” Yale Journal of Law & Technology, January 18, 2018

Second Circuit Affirms Dismissal of Sheldon Adelson’s SLAPP Suit Against National Jewish Democratic Council,” Ballard Spahr alert, December 11, 2017; also published in The National Law Review and MLRC MediaLawLetter

Co-author, 2017 update to “Developments in the Law of Access,” in Communications Law in the Digital Age, Practising Law Institute, 2017

“Government Official’s Ban of Citizen from Her Facebook Page Violated First Amendment,” MLRC MediaLawLetter, August 2017

“Developments in the Law—Representation in Removal Proceedings,” 126 Harvard Law Review 1658, 2013

Speaking Engagements

Panelist and Rising Star, “Hot Issues in Entertainment,” American Bar Association Annual Forum on Communications Law Conference, February 6-8, 2020

Panelist, “From Body Cam Footage to Sealed Court Records: Rethinking Access Law in a Digital Age,” New York State Bar Association Annual Meeting, January 27, 2020

Panelist, “FOIA Bootcamp,” Yale Law School, February 20, 2019


Harvard Law School, (J.D., magna cum laude, 2013)
Articles Editor, Harvard Law Review
Frank Knox Memorial Fellow

University of Cambridge, Queens’ College (M.Phil. 2010)

University of Alberta (B.A. 2008, honors)

Not Admitted to practice in the District of Columbia, supervised by a D.C. attorney

New York

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

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

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