Kurt Wimmer, a leading privacy, cybersecurity technology and media law attorney who worked on a range of press freedom issues alongside the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press over the last two decades, passed away on April 4 at the age of 62.
“Kurt Wimmer was a treasured colleague and a cherished friend, and all of us at the Reporters Committee are deeply saddened by his passing,” said Bruce D. Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. “We will miss his kindness and generosity, which was a gift to us and to all who knew him, and the guidance and mentorship that he offered to countless attorneys.
“His work throughout the media bar community, particularly on behalf of pro bono clients, was not only widely respected and admired, but also played an integral part in advancing the legal rights of journalists and news organizations. We offer our sincerest condolences to Kurt’s family, friends and colleagues, and our profound gratitude for the opportunity to work alongside him for so many years.”
In addition to his career at Covington & Burling, where he co-chaired the firm’s global data privacy and cybersecurity practice, Wimmer also previously served as general counsel for Gannett and represented the News Media Alliance.
In 2010, the Reporters Committee honored Wimmer with a First Amendment Award (now the Freedom of the Press Award) for his dedication to First Amendment freedoms and work on behalf of journalists and news organizations. Over the years, he has partnered with Reporters Committee attorneys to file amicus briefs in numerous cases implicating newsgathering rights, including most recently in a “right-to-be-forgotten” case before the European Court of Human Rights.
Wimmer was also an integral member of the News Media Dialogue Group, formed by the Department of Justice in 2014 to strengthen the department’s internal guidelines governing media subpoenas. Wimmer, along with Brown and Karen Kaiser, a member of the Reporters Committee’s steering committee and senior vice president and general counsel for the Associated Press, guided discussions between journalists and DOJ leadership, including then-Attorney General Eric Holder. Those efforts ultimately led to improvements to the guidelines that offer greater protections for journalists and news organizations against subpoenas and search warrants seeking their communications and work product.
Wimmer was also a leading proponent of federal shield law legislation.
In lieu of flowers, a memorial has been established in Wimmer’s name by 826DC, where he was a member of the board of directors and helped to ensure that students were afforded access to educational programming that amplified their voices.