Tel: (303) 564-3669
Steven D. Zansberg
For more than a quarter century, Steve has represented media companies, online publishers, and individuals in defending claims based on content, fighting subpoenas, and seeking access to government information and proceedings. He has represented the national news media in connection with coverage of such events as the Aurora theater shooting case and the Oklahoma City bombing trials. He secured access to public records related to the murder of JonBenét Ramsey and the mass shooting at Columbine High School.
Steve has defended dozens of defamation and invasion of privacy cases in both state and federal courts across the nation. Steve also litigates copyright and trademark matters. He has successfully briefed and argued appeals to the California and Colorado appellate courts and the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Ninth and Tenth Circuits.
Persuaded a Colorado judge to lift an unconstitutional prior restraint order that prohibited a newspaper from publishing materials its reporter had lawfully obtained from a court clerk, including grand jury testimony.
Obtained the first dismissal of a libel suit against a newspaper under Colorado's anti-SLAPP statute, passed in 2019. The court found that the statements at issue, criticizing a freelance writer's decision not to cover the annual high school play, were either protected opinion or substantially true.
Obtained a published precedential ruling from the California Court of Appeal holding that the California Public Utilities Commission must comply with the strict statutory deadline for responding to public records act requests. The Court rejected PUC's claim that records requesters must wait for months or years, exhausting internal administrative appeals, before having access to the courts.
Obtained dismissal under Colorado's anti-SLAPP Act, of a defamation lawsuit brought by anti-abortion activists against a book author for labeling their campaign to discredit Planned Parenthood "fake news." The court held the challenged publications were substantially true. Colorado's Court of Appeals affirmed that ruling.
Successfully defended the Denver Post and KUSA-TV in a libel suit brought by a convicted felon who disputed the details of a press release from the District Attorney's Office announcing the jury's verdict. Colorado's Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal under the "fair report privilege."
Successfully defended the weekly newspaper Westword in a defamation action brought by the former head of Emergency Medicine at Denver’s Children’s Hospital. The court held that the challenged articles were substantially true.
Successfully defended the operator of an online news publication, Examiner.com, in obtaining dismissal, under California’s anti-SLAPP statute, of libel claims brought by Hollywood celebrity Andrew Keegan. The court held that Keegan could not show that the news report at issue was published with actual malice.
Obtained a published decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit affirming summary judgment for Clarity Media Group on 75 copyright infringement claims brought by two photography licensing agencies. The claims were premised on celebrity photos posted to the Examiner.com website by paid third-party contributors.
Successfully defended The Discovery Channel in a suit arising from an episode of the documentary TV program Homicide Hunter, which depicted the plaintiff’s involvement in a gang-related altercation that resulted in a 14-year-old’s death. The trial court dismissed all of the plaintiff’s defamation, emotional distress, and invasion of privacy claims, finding that the program was substantially true.
Successfully defended The Denver Post and its reporter in a libel case brought by a former City Council candidate based on a report that the candidate was “caught up in a plagiarism charge.” Colorado’s Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of all claims, ruling that the newspaper’s report was both substantially true and not defamatory.
Successfully represented A&E Television Networks in obtaining summary judgment on libel claims premised on the Gangland: Aryan Brotherhood program. The Tenth Circuit (Gorsuch, J.) affirmed the dismissal, holding that depicting the plaintiff as a "member" of the Aryan Brotherhood prison gang, when he "merely conspired with the [Aryan] Brotherhood in a criminal enterprise," is not actionable because it is substantially true.
ABA Forum on Communications Law, past Chair
Colorado Freedom of Information Coalition, President
ABA Section on Torts, Trial and Insurance Practice, Media, Privacy & Defamation Law Committee, past Chair
Media Law Resource Center, State Legislative Committee, past Co-Chair; Newsgathering Committee, past Co-Chair; and Internet Law Committee, member
Colorado Broadcasters Association, past member, Board of Directors
Media Law Reporter (Bloomberg Law), member Editorial Board
Sturm College of Law, University of Denver, past Adjunct Professor
ACLU of Colorado, Legal Panel
Honors and Recognition
2021 First Amendment Award, Society of Professional Journalists - Colorado Pro Chapter
Chambers USA, "Leader in the Field," First Amendment Litigation (Nationwide), 2019-present
The Best Lawyers in America, First Amendment law, First Amendment litigation, media law, 2003-present
Lawyer of the Year," First Amendment Law (Denver), 2014, 2016, 2019, 2021
"Lawyer of the Year," Litigation - First Amendment (Denver), 2018, 2020, 2022
Colorado Super Lawyers, media & advertising, 2009-2010, 2012-2017, 2019-2023
Law Week Colorado, Lawyer of the Year 2011, 2015; Barrister's Best 2018; "People's Choice" for
Colorado's Best Communications/Media Law Lawyer 2017, 2019
Marquis' Alfred Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award, 2018
Colorado Press Association "Friend of the First," 2014
ACLU of Colorado "Sherman Award," 2009
Colorado Lawyers Committee, Lawyer of the Year Award 1997
Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent rating
18CA1316, 18CA1339, 18CA1806
14-15267 Minden Pictures v. John Wiley & Sons
15-16765 Anthony Delevin v. Ted Holteen
>The Jimmy Sengenberger Show (Apr. 29, 2023)
Publications (click on each title to open)
How Best to Explain "Actual Malice" to Juries? For Starters, Don't Use Those Words, 38:3 Communications Lawyer (forthcoming Summer 2023)
Colorado Court Affirms Dismissal of Anti-Abortion Activist's Libel Suit, MLRC MediaLawLetter
Colorado Court Grants News Anchor's Anti-SLAPP Motion, MLRC MediaLawLetter
Mass Shooting at Club Q in Colorado Springs Prompts Two Successful Unsealing Battles, MLRC MediaLawLetter
Removing FERPA's "Invisibility Cloak" From Records Showing Public Employees Behaving Badly,
37:1 Communications Lawyer
Charting the Skies: Where Does Facial Recognition Technology "Fit" in the Data Privacy Cosmos?, 2:1 U. Notre
Dame J. Emerging Tech. 292
Public Access to Police Body-Worn Camera Recordings (Status Report 2020), Communications Lawyer
Colorado Town Council Violated State’s Open Meetings Law, MLRC MediaLawLetter
Co-author, Recent Developments in Media, Privacy, Defamation, and Advertising Law, ABA Tort Trial &
Insurance Practice Law Journal
Colorado Adopts Anti-SLAPP Statute, MLRC MediaLawLetter
May 1, 2019
Law Day: Celebrate, and Support a Free Press, The Gazette
Colorado Opens Police Internal Affairs Files to the Public – Can Two States Spawn a National Trend?
Counseling Your Clients on Fair Use of Others Works ... While Standing on One Foot, Communications Lawyer
Featured guest, "Make No Law" podcast: Gag (discussing gag orders on trial participants), Legal Talk
Fair Use in Documentary Films: Two Helpful Rules of Thumb to Help You Navigate Copyright Gray
Areas, Video & Filmmaker Magazine
Co-author, Mexican Journalist Seeking Asylum Finally Free From Detention, MLRC MediaLawLetter
Colorado Judge Unseals Psychiatric Expert Reports in Aurora Theater Shooting Case, Ballard Spahr Alert
Judge Tosses Libel Suit Based on Environmental Activists' Facebook Post, MLRC MediaLawLetter
Colorado Supreme Court Holds There Is No Constitutional Protection for Public Access to Court
Records, MLRC MediaLawLetter
Co-author, Mexican Journalist Seeking Asylum is Granted New Hearing, MLRC MediaLawLetter
Co-author, Seventeen Journalism Organizations File Amicus Brief in Support of Mexican Journalist's Asylum
Appeal, MLRC MediaLawLetter
Co-author, "Media Coalition Gains Access to Sealed Warrant Materials in Las Vegas Mass Shooting,"
Ballard Spahr Alert
Co-author, Federal Judge Refuses to Close Courtroom During Trade Secret Trial Between Silicon Valley
Titans, Ballard Spahr Alert
California Court of Appeals Affirms Dismissal Under Anti-SLAPP Statute of Defamation Claim
Against Online Platform Hosting User-Generated Content, Ballard Spahr Alert
Recent High-profile Cases Highlight the Need for Greater Procedural Protections for Freedom of the
Press, Communications Lawyer
"Internet Law," ABA Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Law Journal
The Myth of Police Officer Privacy, Communications Lawyer
July 4, 1966: Birth of the FOIA – A Look Back, Communications Lawyer
As Body-Worn Cameras Proliferate, States' Access Restrictions Defeat Their Purpose, Communications
Why We Shouldn’t Hide What Police Body Cameras Show, Governing Magazine
Cloud-Based Public Records Pose New Challenges for Access, Communications Lawyer
Co-author, A Little Birdie Told Me, 'You're a Crook': Libel in the Twittersphere and Beyond, Communications Lawyer
"What Is Your Exposure for Information Posted to Your Website, Blog, or Social Media Page by
Third Parties?" in INTERNET PUBLISHING: PERILS AND PRACTICES (ABA Publishing)
Co-author, Privacy Expectations in Online Social Media—An Emerging Generational Divide? Communications Lawyer
Co-author, Expanded Media Coverage in Colorado Courts, The Colorado Lawyer
Co-author, Libel by Implication, Communications Lawyer
City and County of Denver, Inc.: Public Access to 'Private' Records of Quasi-Public Entities, Communications Lawyer
"Survey of Colorado Defamation and Related Claims Against the Media," Media Libel & Related Law
Survey, Media Law Resource Center
Note, "Objectivity and Balance" in Public Broadcasting: Unwise, Unworkable, and Unconstitutional," 12:1 Yale L. & Pol'y Rev. 184-230
Yale Law School (J.D. 1994)
Stanford University (B.A. 1982) (with honors)
U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Fourth, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits
U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California
U.S. District Court for the Central District of California
U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois
U.S. Supreme Court