Bruce W. Sanford

Partner

Washington, D.C.
T 202.861.1626  |  F 202.861.1783

"...a 'top-of-the-line' First Amendment litigator. [Bruce] is esteemed by peers for his expertise in libel and privacy law, and described by clients as 'proactive, experienced and commercially aware.'"

— Chambers USA 2013

Described by American Journalism Review as one of the most accomplished press lawyers in the nation, Bruce Sanford maintains a media and First Amendment law practice focused on representing high-profile clients in cutting edge and complex litigation. Noted for his knowledge of media law and its environment, he also serves as a counselor to families owning media conglomerates, advising on the evolution of their businesses in a digital world. During a distinguished career spanning four decades, he has been in the forefront of the contours of modern American libel and media law and represented major media outlets from television networks to major newspapers, magazine, and book publishers.

Bruce is ranked in Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business and is listed in The Best Lawyers in America©. He was mentioned in The National Law Journal's list of the 100 most influential lawyers in America and in a 1997 Washingtonian article on "The 50 Best Lawyers in Washington," which noted he was "without peer" in First Amendment Law. He has authored a leading treatise on libel and privacy law, Libel and Privacy (Aspen Publishers/Walters Kluwer), which is relied upon by media lawyers and courts throughout the country, as well as the best-selling trade book, Don't Shoot the Messenger: How Our Growing Hatred of the Media Threatens Free Speech for All of Us.

Select Experience

  • Serves as lead counsel defending prominent blogger against a former Obama Administration official in the first case to trigger the District of Columbia’s new Anti-SLAPP statute, which was enacted in 2011 to protect libel defendants from time and expense of defending against meritless claims. Case arose out of commentary concerning a speech given by the plaintiff to an NAACP audience.
  • Represents defendants operating website in defamation action filed by local publicist who sued client over statements made about her on website stemming from postings on her personal social media page. Case addresses issues of first impression under libel law and the First Amendment where one seeks attention and publicity through social media.
  • Represents one of the nation's largest Trusts which controls major media companies. Throughout years of representation, has been instrumental in advance planning for termination of the Trust in 2012 and structuring an agreement among family members to maintain control of the media companies. Additionally, has assisted in structuring and implementation of family office entity and investment in vehicles for family wealth.
More »

Experience

  • Serves as lead counsel defending prominent blogger against a former Obama Administration official in the first case to trigger the District of Columbia’s new Anti-SLAPP statute, which was enacted in 2011 to protect libel defendants from time and expense of defending against meritless claims. Case arose out of commentary concerning a speech given by the plaintiff to an NAACP audience.
  • Represents defendants operating website in defamation action filed by local publicist who sued client over statements made about her on website stemming from postings on her personal social media page. Case addresses issues of first impression under libel law and the First Amendment where one seeks attention and publicity through social media.
  • Represents one of the nation's largest Trusts which controls major media companies. Throughout years of representation, has been instrumental in advance planning for termination of the Trust in 2012 and structuring an agreement among family members to maintain control of the media companies. Additionally, has assisted in structuring and implementation of family office entity and investment in vehicles for family wealth.
  • Serves as general counsel to the Society of Professional Journalists, the largest and oldest organization of journalists in the United States.  
  • Represented President Clinton in negotiation and publication of a book.
  • Won libel and copyright cases brought against First Lady Barbara Bush and John Grisham, respectively.
  • Defended The New York Times in seminal libel case brought by an author against the Times' Book Review.
  • Won five-year controversial lawsuit for Esquire magazine brought by former White House National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane.
  • Defended libel cases brought by a Chicago politician, the chief of police of Birmingham, Alabama, a former U.S. Ambassador to Chile, a girlfriend of Elvis Presley, a boyfriend of Vanna White, the founder of Rockwell International, professional football legends, and an Internet merchandiser.

Recognitions

  • Sanford, Bruce WChambers USA: Media and Entertainment (2003 to 2014)
  • Chambers USA: First Amendment Litigation (2003 to 2014)
  • The Best Lawyers in America© (2006 to 2015)
    • Washington, D.C.: First Amendment Law
    • Washington, D.C.: Media Law
  • Freedom of Information Hall of Fame: Elected Member (2006)
  • Cleveland Club of Washington, D.C.: Harold Hitz Burton Award (2006)
  • The Washingtonian "The 50 Best Lawyers in Washington" (1997)
  • The National Law Journal: List of 100 most influential attorneys in America (1991)
  • Washington, D.C. "Super Lawyer" (2007 to 2014)
  • Martindale-Hubbell: AV Preeminent

Memberships

  • University of Virginia, The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression: Charter Trustee and Chairman
  • International Center for Journalists: Board Member
  • The Media Institute: Board Member
    • First Amendment Advisory Council: Chair
  • Media Law Reporter: Advisory Board Member

Community

  • The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts: National Symphony Orchestra Board Member
  • PBS's flagship station WETA (Washington) Board Member
  • Washington National Cathedral: Governing Body Member
  • National Cathedral Association: President (2003 to 2005)
  • National Cathedral School for Girls: Governing Board Member
  • National Presbyterian School in Washington: Governing Board Member
  • National Law Center for Homelessness and Poverty: 10th Anniversary Benefit Chair
  • Centennial Gala of the Washington National Cathedral: Chair (2007)

Services

Prior Positions

  • BakerHostetler Cleveland office: Appointed by judges of Common Pleas Court as chairman of the board of Cuyahoga County Public Library

Admissions

  • Maryland, 1985
  • District of Columbia, 1981
  • Ohio, 1971
  • New York, 1970

Education

  • J.D., New York University School of Law, 1970
  • A.B., Hamilton College, 1967, cum laude