- 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)
- ABA Forum on Communications Law (past-Chair)
- Media Law Resource Center, Defense Counsel Section (past-President)
- District of Columbia Bar, Publications Committee (past-Chair)
- District of Columbia Bar, Media Law Committee (past-Chair)
- Practising Law Institute, Communications Law in the Digital Age (Co-Chair)
- First Amendment Salon (Co-Founder and Co-Chair)
- Georgetown University Law Center, Adjunct Professor (1989-2016)
- Southwestern Law School, Adjunct Professor, Media Litigation (2009-10)
- Paul M. Herbert Law Center, Louisiana State University, Adjunct Faculty, Comparative Media Law, Lyon, France (2009-10)
- Bureau of National Affairs, Media Law Reporter Advisory Board
- Charles Fahy American Inn of Court (past-Master of the Bench)
- Fred Friendly Seminars, Inc. (past-Board of Directors)
- Recognized by Chambers USA as a “Star Individual” in national First Amendment litigation
- Recognized by Best Lawyers as a preeminent First Amendment and Media lawyer in Washington, DC and as the 2016 DC First Amendment Law Lawyer of the Year
- Recognized by Martindale-Hubbell as AV Preeminent
- The Progeny: Justice William J. Brennan’s Fight to Preserve the Legacy of New York Times v. Sullivan (American Bar Association 2014) (with S. Wermiel)
- Newsgathering and the Law (Lexis Law Publishing 4th ed. 2011) (with R. Lind, S. Berlin, and C.T. Dienes)
- Media and the Law (Lexis Nexis 2d ed. 2014) (with D. Kohler, D. Ardia, D. Cohen, and R. Papandrea)
- The Court and the Cannonball: An Inside Look, 65 American University Law Review 101 (2016) (with S. Wermiel)
- The Landmark That Wasn’t: A First Amendment Play In Five Acts, 88 University of Washington Law Review 1 (2013) (with S. Wermiel)
- “The First Amendment and National Security,” in National Security Law in the News: A Guide for Journalists, Scholars and Policymakers (ABA Standing Committee on Law and National Security and Medill School of Journalism 2012)
- Handcuffing the Press: First Amendment Limitations on the Reach of Criminal Statutes as Applied to the Media, 55 New York Law School Law Review 1015 (2011) (with N. Siegel and J. Bead)
- Implied Libel, Defamatory Meaning, and State of Mind: The Promise of New York Times v. Sullivan, 78 Iowa Law Review 237 (1993) (with C.T. Dienes)
- Branzburg Revisited: Confidential Sources and First Amendment Values, 57 George Washington Law Review 13 (1988) (with M. Langley)
- Judge and Jury in the Law of Defamation, 35 American University Law Review 1 (1985)
- The Editorial Function and the Gertz Public Figure Standard, 87 Yale Law Journal 1723 (1978)
- 18th Annual Silha Lecture, Newsgathering on Trial: The Supreme Court and the Press in the 21st Century, University of Minnesota’s Silha Center for the Study of Media Ethics and Law
Lee has represented media clients in libel, invasion of privacy, reporter’s privilege, access, copyright, and related First Amendment cases for more than thirty-five years. 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 served as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Georgetown University Law Center from 1989 to 2016. He is the lead author of the treatise Newsgathering and the Law, now in its Fourth Edition; he co-authored the casebook Media and the Law, now in its Second Edition; and most recently, together with Professor Stephen Wermiel, he co-authored The Progeny: Justice William J. Brennan’s Fight to Preserve the Legacy of New York Times v. Sullivan, published by the American Bar Association Press to commemorate the 50th anniversary of that landmark decision.
Chambers USA has reported that Lee is considered “the greatest First Amendment attorney in the United States” and has ranked 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.
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 from 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.
Ventura v. Kyle, 825 F.3d 876 (8th Cir. 2016). Lee argued on behalf of the estate of the late Chris Kyle, a sniper for the Navy SEALs, and secured the appellate reversal of a $1.85 million jury verdict in favor of former Minnesota governor and professional wrestler Jesse Ventura for unjust enrichment and defamation. The court held that there is no valid claim for unjust enrichment in the context of an alleged defamation and remanded Ventura’s defamation claim for a new trial.
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.
- Lee Levine
- 1899 L Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
Bar & Court Admissions
- District of Columbia
- U.S. Supreme Court
- U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth, Seventh, Ninth, and District of Columbia Circuits
- U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces
- U.S. District Courts for the District of Columbia, the District of Colorado, and the Northern District of Illinois