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Katie Townsend

Deputy Executive Director and Legal Director

Katie Townsend is the Reporters Committee’s deputy executive director and legal director. She oversees the Reporters Committee’s legal services portfolio — including its litigation, vetting/pre-publication review, and amicus practices — and supervises the legal work of the Reporters Committee’s team of staff attorneys and legal fellows.

Townsend leads the Reporters Committee’s impact litigation efforts, and regularly represents news organizations and journalists, including documentary filmmakers, in public records, court access, and legal defense matters. Under her leadership, Reporters Committee attorneys have secured several key victories for journalists and the First Amendment, including:

  • Carlson v. United States, 837 F.3d 753 (7th Cir. 2016)
  • Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and The Associated Press v. Federal Bureau of Investigation, et al., 877 F.3d 399 (D.C. Cir. 2017)
  • Golden v. New Jersey Institute of Technology, 934 F.3d 302 (3d Cir. 2019)
  • In re Application of Jason Leopold to Unseal Certain Electronic Surveillance Applications and Orders, 964 F.3d 1121 (D.C. Cir. 2020)
  • Hartford Courant Company v. Carroll, 986 F.3d 211 (2d Cir. 2021)
  • Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and The Associated Press v. Federal Bureau of Investigation, et al., 3 F.4th 350 (D.C. Cir. 2021)

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. In 2020, Townsend led the Reporters Committee’s successful launch of its Local Legal Initiative (LLI) to provide legal support for local investigative and enterprise reporting in Colorado, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee.

Townsend joined the Reporters Committee as its first Litigation Director in 2014. Prior to joining the Reporters Committee, she 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, that same year, 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 Washington, D.C.