NOV. 3, 2022 – Over a three-decade career, Thomas R. Burke has advanced the cause of free speech for clients ranging from investigative journalists to nonprofit global advocacy groups to the world's most popular digital platforms. He has secured victories that have consistently broken barriers and enriched the public discourse.

In recognition of his achievements, the National Law Journal has honored Burke as a 2022 Litigation Trailblazer.

Burke, a partner in the San Francisco office of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP, is a longtime member of the firm's media/entertainment litigation team, widely recognized as one of the country's best. He is highly regarded for his cutting-edge First Amendment and libel defense work and his trailblazing initiatives to uphold speech rights, defend reporters privilege, and enforce the right of access to public records and proceedings.

Burke has made a significant mark on his practice area with a long list of high-impact engagements. In the last few years alone, Burke accomplished the following:

  • Secured a landmark policy change at the California Supreme Court that ensures greater transparency in clemency proceedings.
  • Won a decision from the California Supreme Court in a nationally-watched case addressing the responsibility of online platforms for content they host. The court found that Yelp was not required to remove a defamatory user review.
  • Helped stop an unprecedented Trump Administration order banning WeChat, the Chinese super-app on which 19 million people in the U.S. rely daily for Chinese-language news, social media, phone calls, and more.
  • Quashed search warrants and secured the return of items illegally seized from a freelance journalist by San Francisco police as part of a leak investigation.
  • Forced the release of thousands of police misconduct records in litigation against the California Attorney General, California Highway Patrol, and BART.
  • Won a decision from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals affirming that California's anti-SLAPP statute, a key tool in the defense against lawsuits targeting speech, applies in federal court.

Burke also chairs Davis Wright's pro bono committee and is consistently one of the firm's biggest individual contributors of pro bono hours. In the last few years, he helped develop and launch a groundbreaking new initiative—in partnership with Microsoft—to support local, under-resourced newsrooms with essential legal assistance. The program recently drew major funding from the Knight Foundation and is expanding nationally.

About Davis Wright Tremaine

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