On Thursday, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press announced that Katie Townsend has become the organization’s legal director. In this role, she will oversee the Reporters Committee’s legal services portfolio, including its direct litigation and amicus practices. She’ll continue to lead litigation efforts in public records, court access, and legal defense cases, and will supervise the team of staff attorneys and legal fellows in both areas.
She’ll also continue to manage partnerships where the Reporters Committee offers legal support and pre-publication review, particularly to documentary filmmakers and nonprofit newsrooms.
“In every way, Katie has been a central and indispensable leader in our evolution as an organization. Her experience, commitment, and drive to succeed are especially important as we seek to further our impact and set new precedent in First Amendment and media law,” said Bruce Brown, executive director of the Reporters Committee.
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.
“By directly representing journalists and news organizations around the country, Reporters Committee attorneys have helped strengthen the organization’s position as the leading nonprofit working to defend and vindicate the legal rights of journalists in the United States. Our litigation work combined with our long-running amicus practice, as well as our guides and other legal resources, make us a one-stop shop for reporters who would not otherwise have access to legal support,” Townsend said. “I’m looking forward to continuing to grow our legal portfolio so that we can make legal services available to more freelance and independent journalists who need them.”
Prior to joining the Reporters Committee, Townsend was a media and entertainment litigator at the law firm of Gibson Dunn and Crutcher LLP.
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 and a participant in the First Amendment Clinic. 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.