Katie Townsend is the Reporters Committee's Legal Director. She oversees the Reporters Committee’s legal services portfolio, including its direct litigation and amicus practices. She leads litigation efforts in public records, court access, and legal defense cases, and supervises the team of staff attorneys and legal fellows in both areas.
She also manages partnerships where the Reporters Committee offers legal support and pre-publication review, particularly to documentary filmmakers and nonprofit newsrooms.
Townsend has served as the first litigation director of the Reporters Committee since 2014, securing several key victories for journalists and the First Amendment overall. Under her leadership, in 2018 alone, Reporters Committee attorneys secured the dismissal of defamation claims against a journalist under the D.C. Anti-SLAPP Act, obtained a first-of-its-kind ruling from an Oklahoma state court making clear that delayed access to public records violates Oklahoma’s Open Records Act, and defeated an agency’s attempt to charge a reporter more than $174,000 to obtain records he had requested under the federal Freedom of Information Act.
Prior to joining the Reporters Committee, Townsend was a litigation associate in the Los Angeles office of Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, where she specialized in media and entertainment litigation. Prior to joining Gibson Dunn, Townsend spent a summer in the Washington, D.C. office of Levine, Sullivan, Koch & Schulz LLP.
In May 2014, Townsend was named a "Rising Star" – one of the nation's top media and entertainment attorneys under the age of 40 – by Law 360. She was recognized in 2015 as a Washington, D.C. "Rising Star" by The National Law Journal and, in 2015, was named part of the "Next Gen - Hollywood's Up-and-Coming Execs 35 and Under" by the Hollywood Reporter.
Townsend is a 2007 graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, where she was a member of the editorial board of the Virginia Law Review. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Florida in 2004 with a B.A. in English and a B.S. in broadcast journalism. While pursuing her undergraduate degrees, she worked as a reporter and news producer for a local AM news radio station.
Admitted to practice in California, New York, and D.C.