Leita Walker

Partner

walkerl@ballardspahr.com
Tel 612.371.6222
Fax 612.371.3207
Minneapolis

Leita Walker is a litigator and trial lawyer in the firm's Media and Entertainment Law Group. She has nearly 15 years of experience defending media organizations in libel litigation and helping them obtain access to governmental and judicial records.

Leita’s First Amendment practice includes defending libel, privacy, and right of publicity claims in trial and appellate courts across the country; prepublication vetting of both news and entertainment content; and advising clients on subpoenas and privilege issues, copyright law, and state and federal Freedom of Information Act laws.

Prior to becoming a lawyer, Leita wrote for The Christian Science Monitor, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and the Lawrence Journal-World.

Representative Matters

Appellate decisions

  • Ventura v. Kyle, 825 F.3d 876 (8th Cir. 2016) (reversing plaintiff's verdict in defamation suit against estate of best-selling author of American Sniper)
  • Bierman v. Weier, 826 N.W. 2d 436 (Iowa 2013) (granting summary judgment to publisher in libel suit brought by private figure)
  • Larson v. Gannett Co., slip op., No. A17-1068 (Minn. Ct. App. May 7, 2018) (for amici) (holding that "[t]he fair-report privilege extends to protect news reports that accurately summarize or fairly abridge information relayed at a law-enforcement agency's official press conference or by a law-enforcement agency's official news release").

District Court decisions

  • State v. Lane, No. 27-CR-20-12951 (Henn. County Minn) (granting motion to permit press and public to copy and distribute body camera footage filed with court in prosecution of officer charged with aiding and abetting murder of George Floyd)
  • Gray Media Group v. City of Watertown, New York, No. EF2020-862 (Jefferson County N.Y.) (granting petition to obtain report of employee investigation, even though allegations of wrongdoing found to be unsubstantiated and awarding attorneys’ fees)
  • State v. Noor, No. 27-CR-18-6859 (Henn. County Minn.) (granting objections to closure of criminal trial and to restrictions placed on activities of sketch artist (March 20, 2018); granting motion to unseal names of jurors (July 10, 2020).
  • Luna v. Univision Communications, Inc., No. 2019-016891-CA-01 (Fla. Cir. Ct., 11th Judicial Circuit, Nov. 2, 2019) (granting anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss for failure to plead actual malice).
  • Restis v. American Interest, LLC, No. 2019 CA 004681B (D.C. Sup. Ct., Oct. 18, 2019) (granting anti-SLAPP motion to dismiss for failure to plead actual malice).
  • U.S. v. Kealoha, No. 1:17-CR-00582 (D. Haw., May 15, 2019) (granting motion to strike journalist from trial witness list).
  • U.S. v. McKinny, No. 1:18 CR 78 (W.D.N.C., Mar. 26, 2019) (quashing pre-trial subpoena served upon documentary production company).
  • In re Ellison, slip op., No. 27-FA-11-7451 (Henn. County Minn. Oct. 12, 2018) (granting motion on behalf of Star Tribune Media Company LLC to intervene and unseal documents in Keith Ellison's divorce file; Court of Appeals denied subsequent petition for writ of prohibition).
  • In re Smith v. Strong, slip op., No. CVCV039797 (Iowa Dist. Ct., Carroll County, May 21, 2018) (granting summary judgment to reporter and newspaper in libel and false light case brought by police officer; concluding that statements at issue were true, that plaintiff was a public figure and had failed to prove actual malice, and that statement that plaintiff was a "pedophile" was nonactionable opinion)
  • In re Application of Petitioner Mahtani to Enforce a Subpoena, slip op., No. 27-cv-17-11589 (Henn. County Minn. Sept. 25, 2017) (denying motion to enforce a subpoena requesting unpublished information, including names of authors of news reports, pursuant to Minnesota's statutory reporters' privilege)
  • In re Testolini and Bremer Trust N.A, slip op., No. 27-FA-06-3597 (Henn. County Minn. Dec. 21, 2016) (granting motion on behalf of Star Tribune Media Company LLC to intervene and unseal documents in Prince's divorce file; denial of motion to stay brought by ex-wife)

Professional Activities

Board member, American Bar Association Litigation Journal

Central Regional Division Co-Chair, American Bar Association Forum on Communications Law

Media Law Resource Center

Children's Law Center of Minnesota

Volunteer Lawyers Network

Recognition & Accomplishments

The Best Lawyers in America, litigation-First Amendment, 2020, 2021

The Legal 500, Media and Entertainment: Litigation, 2020

Publications

Co-author, "Minnesota Open Government Guide" and "Minnesota Reporters Privilege Compendium" chapters, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, 2018 edition

Co-author, "A New 'Slant' on Pacifica?," Communications Lawyer, Winter 2018

Co-author, "A Theory for Defending Libel Suits in an AI World," Law360, November 2018

"Prince, Jordan and Bolger: How Corporate Tributes to the Minnesota Megastar Reveal Problems with the Three-Part Commercial Speech Test," Communications Lawyer, Summer 2016

Co-author, "Recent Developments in Media, Privacy and Defamation Law, " Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Law Journal, Winter 2015

Speaking Engagements

Panelist, "Defamation and Related Claims," Communications Law in the Digital Age 2020, Practising Law Institute, November 12, 2020

Panelist, "From Ferguson to George Floyd to Portland: Protesters, Police, and the Journalists in the Middle," Media and the Law Online CLE, University of Kansas School of Law, September 9, 2020

"Journalism and Law in the Age of Fake News," Federal Bar Association, Minnesota Chapter, Annual Federal Practice Seminar, June 20, 2019

"45 Ideas in 45 Minutes," MACTA Annual Conference, Minneapolis, June 13, 2019

"Libel-Proofing Your PR Campaign: #MeToo Lessons for Responding to Whistleblowers," 8th Annual Minnesota In-House Counsel, Minneapolis, June 13, 2019

Moderator, "'Deep Fakes': Trust Not What Your Eyes Perceive" 32nd Annual Media & The Law Seminar, University of Kansas School of Law, May 3, 2019

"Media Law: Essential Tools of the Trade," 32nd Annual Media & The Law Seminar, University of Kansas School of Law, May 2, 2019

Panelist, "The Power of Investigative Journalism," Midwest Journalism Conference, Bloomington, MN, April 12, 2019

"Libel Proofing Your PR Campaign," IABC Minnesota and Minnesota Journalism Center's CONVERGENCE Summit 2019, Minneapolis, March 28, 2019

Panelist, "Tips from the Hot Seats: IP Litigation in Minnesota," Federal Bar Association, October 2018

Panelist, "Free Speech Rights—2 Key Decisions This Term and How They Affect Free Speech Jurisprudence," Minnesota CLE, August 2018

Panelist, "The Digital Economy: Friend or Foe to Franchising?" International Franchise Association 51st Annual Legal Symposium, May 2018

"U.S. Privacy Roundup: Looking Back at 2016 and Into the Crystal Ball, " Midwest Privacy Retreat, November 2016

Panelist, "Monday Morning Quarterback—Lessons from Recent High-Profile Trials," University of Kansas School of Law 29th Annual Media & Law Seminar, April 2016 

Community Activities

Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board, youth athletics coach

University of Kansas School of Law (J.D. 2006)
Editor-in-Chief, Kansas Law Review
Valedictorian
Order of the Coif

University of Kansas (B.S. 2002)
Editor-in-Chief, University Daily Kansan

Iowa

Minnesota 

U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota

U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois

U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin

U.S. District Court the the Southern District of Iowa