Lee Levine has represented media clients in libel, invasion of privacy, reporter’s privilege, access, copyright and related First Amendment cases for more than three decades. In the United States Supreme Court, he has argued for the media defendants in Harte-Hanks Communications, Inc. v. Connaughton and Bartnicki v. Vopper. Lee also has litigated in the courts of more than 20 states and the District of Columbia and has appeared in most federal courts of appeal and in the highest courts of ten states.
Lee is an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Georgetown University Law Center, where he has taught media law since 1989. He is the lead author of the treatise Newsgathering and the Law, now in its Fourth Edition, and, along with the late Professor David Kohler, co-authored the casebook Media and the Law.
Chambers USA has reported that Lee is considered “the greatest First Amendment attorney in the United States” and ranks him nationally as a “star individual” in First Amendment litigation, its highest rating. Likewise, the Legal 500 has written that Lee’s “reputation is unparalleled. He is in a class of his own.” And, in Best Lawyers, Lee has been described as “the dean of First Amendment Law.”
Lee began his legal career as a law clerk to the Honorable Irving R. Kaufman, then-Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Prior to founding LSKS in 1997, Lee was a partner in the Washington, DC-based firm Ross, Dixon & Masback, L.L.P.
Bartnicki v. Vopper, 532 U.S. 514 (2001). Lee argued on behalf of the media defendants in this landmark Supreme Court case arising out of the radio broadcast of a tape recording of a cell phone conversation between two teachers’ union officials. The Supreme Court upheld the dismissal of the plaintiffs’ claims under the federal wiretapping act and reaffirmed the principle that the press cannot be held liable for publishing truthful information about a matter of public concern absent a governmental interest of the highest order, at least where it played no role in the source’s unlawful acquisition of the information.
Harte-Hanks Communications, Inc. v. Connaughton, 491 U.S. 657 (1989). Lee argued on behalf of the newspaper defendant in the United States Supreme Court in a defamation action arising from a news report alleging that a judicial candidate acted unethically. The Court held that, for the candidate to prevail, he had to demonstrate that the newspaper did more than merely depart fro m professional standards in reporting the story. The Court also reaffirmed the principle that appellate courts must independently review the record in defamation actions instituted by public officials or public figures.
Hatfill v. The New York Times Co., 532 F.3d 312 (4th Cir. 2008). Lee and his LSKS colleagues successfully defended The New York Times in a defamation action brought by a prominent bio-defense expert named by the FBI as a “person of interest” in the investigation of the 2001 anthrax mailings. The scientist claimed the newspaper falsely implicated him in connection with the mailings. The trial court granted the newspaper’s motion for summary judgment and the Fourth Circuit affirmed, finding the plaintiff was a limited-purpose public figure who failed to establish actual malice.
United States v. Microsoft Corp., 165 F.3d 952 (D.C. Cir. 1999). Lee represented and argued on behalf of The New York Times and other news organizations that sought to attend pretrial depositions in this watershed civil antitrust case. The District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the trial court’s order requiring that the public and press be admitted to the depositions.
Yale Law School (J.D. 1979), Managing Editor, Yale Law Journal
University of Pennsylvania (B.A., M.A., summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, 1976)