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Admitted to Practice

  • Washington, 1977
  • California, 1992
  • U.S. Supreme Court, 1983
  • U.S. District Court Western District of Washington, 1977
  • U.S. District Court Eastern District of Washington, 1980
  • U.S. District Court Northern District of California
  • U.S. District Court Southern District of California
  • U.S. District Court Eastern District of California
  • U.S. District Court Central District of California
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 8th Circuit, 2004
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 9th Circuit, 1978
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 10th Circuit, 1984

Bruce E. H. Johnson


Bruce Johnson, a veteran litigator, represents information industry clients on issues involving media and communications law as well as technology and intellectual property matters. His expertise includes advising on First Amendment law issues, particularly involving commercial speech, commercial transactions and consumer rights. The author of Washington’s Reporter’s Shield Law enacted in 2007, and Washington’s Uniform Correction or Clarification of Defamation Act enacted in 2013, Bruce represents clients in Internet related litigation and liabilities. He also represents national clients in privacy and security matters, advertising liability risks, defamation and Internet and online liability cases. He is the co-author of "Advertising and Commercial Speech, A First Amendment Guide" (2nd Edition), published by the Practising Law Institute, New York. In addition, Bruce regularly represents lawyers, law firms, and other parties in connection with legal malpractice claims, has spoken on the topic of lawyer liability and professional responsibility on many occasions, and currently serves as the co-chair of the firm’s Quality Assurance Committee.

Representative Experience

Nationwide Biweekly Administration v. Hubanks

Representing the plaintiffs in First Amendment challenge to California statutory regulation of commercial speech, with petition for certiorari filed on Feb. 15, 2018. (U.S. Ongoing)

Perfectus Aluminum, Inc. v. Dupre Analytics et al.

Representing activist short-seller Muddy Waters against trade libel and other claims based on its reports that exposed fraud by a publicly traded Chinese company and noted the plaintiff’s ties to the company. (San Bernardino Cnty. (Calif.) Super. Ct. Ongoing)

St. Jude Medical, Inc. v. Muddy Waters

Represented cybersecurity consulting firm, physician, and investment firm in defamation lawsuit arising out of public disclosures about cybersecurity risks involving the plaintiff’s medical devices. (D. Minn. 2016 Settled)

McNamara v. Koehler, et al.

Defended law firm and attorney in lawsuit brought by opposing counsel in contemporaneous wrongful death lawsuit, alleging defamation and consumer protection violations. Obtained dismissal of all claims with prejudice. Plaintiff’s appeal to the Washington Court of Appeals is pending. (Wash. App 2018)

Tollefsen v. Jantz et al.

Represented a publisher, authors, and a radio show host against claims that they defamed a teacher by implying she committed crimes by being present when students take medication. The court granted summary judgment, and the Washington Court of Appeals affirmed. (Wash. App. 2017)

Darsky v. Avvo, Inc.

Represented Avvo in lawsuit brought by licensed California attorney on behalf of putative class who alleged that Avvo misappropriated his name and likeness by selling advertising on the same page as publicly available information about him and his law practice. After the hearing on Avvo’s anti-SLAPP motion, plaintiff agreed to dismiss the case in exchange for an agreement limiting his obligation to pay Avvo’s attorneys’ fees. (N.D. Cal. 2016)

Vrdolyak v. Avvo Inc.

Secured dismissal of putative class action alleging lawyer-rating website violated plaintiff attorney’s right of publicity by publishing a profile page without his authorization, on which ads for competitors and website’s services could appear. Court held First Amendment fully protected profiles as non-commercial speech. (N.D. Ill. 2016)

Adjmi v. DLT Entertainment

Successfully represented playwright David Adjmi in declaratory judgment action. Obtained a ruling on the pleadings that his original play, "3C," a parody of the 1970s television series "Three’s Company," does not infringe the copyright of the series. 97 F. Supp. 3d 512 (S.D.N.Y. 2015)

Thomson v. Doe

Secured first published appellate decision in Washington state court holding that a party seeking the identity of an anonymous online poster must satisfy a heightened standard under the First Amendment. Court affirmed decision denying motion to compel Avvo to reveal identity of individual who wrote allegedly libelous review. (Wash Ct. App. Div. I July 6, 2015)

Davis, et al. v. Cox, et al.

Defending former board members of food cooperative against lawsuit brought by co-op members challenging board action, implicating Washington’s now-defunct anti-SLAPP statute. (Wash. Ongoing)

Beef Products, Inc. v. ABC News et al.

Represented "Food Safety News" and its reporters and editors in connection with protecting reporter’s privilege in response to subpoenas issued by BPI in Virginia and Washington State. (S. D. 1st Jud. Cir. 2014)

Henne v. City of Yakima

On behalf of major news organizations, filed amicus brief in first case construing Washington’s anti-SLAPP statute to reach the Washington State Supreme Court, urging the Court to construe the statute in favor of protecting defendants’ speech and petition rights. Court ruled that as recipient of communications, municipality was not engaged to protected activity. (Wash., 2015)

Fisher Broadcasting-Seattle TV LLC v. City of Seattle

On behalf of major news organizations and open government advocates, filed state Supreme Court amicus brief arguing for public disclosure of police dash cam videos. Court adopted statutory construction advocated by amici. 326 P.3d 688 (Wash., 2014)

Daniel v. Kruger

Represented defendants in appeal of trial court’s order denying motion to dismiss complaint under Washington’s anti-SLAPP statute. Plaintiff, a real estate agent, claimed defamation and related claims over the posting of a negative review on the website Court of Appeals reversed trial court’s decision that anti-SLAPP statute did not apply. 176 Wn. App. 1028 (Div. II 2014)

Intercon Solutions, Inc. v. Basel Action Network et al

Submitted amicus brief on behalf of coalition of media organizations and trade associations urging 7th Circuit to hold that Washington's anti-SLAPP law applies in federal court and that the collateral order doctrine permits immediate appeal from denial of an anti-SLAPP motion. (7th Cir. 2014)

Towillis v. Nystuen

Represented couple against claims that they defamed the plaintiff, a real estate agent, because one of them posted a negative review of the plaintiff on After defendants filed an anti-SLAPP motion, the plaintiff agreed to dismiss the claims with prejudice. (Snohomish Cnty. (Wash.) Super. Ct. 2014)

Chamber of Commerce of the United States v. Servin, et al.

Represented the Yes Men against trademark claims filed after they performed a political parody of the Chamber of Commerce's controversial position on global climate change; three years after defendants moved to dismiss, the Chamber dropped its lawsuit. USDC D.C. 09cv 2014 (2013)

Jones v. Dirty World Entertainment Recordings LLC

Submitted amicus brief on behalf of online service providers, including major technology companies and news media, arguing for reversal of district court's narrow interpretation of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ultimately reversed and vacated the judgment, endorsing a broad interpretation of Section 230 which permits websites and service providers to engage in traditional editorial functions without becoming liable for user content. (6th Cir. 2014)

United States Mission Corporation v. KIRO-TV, Inc.

Secured dismissal of libel by implication claim brought against local television station stemming from investigative report about halfway house’s requirement that its residents—some of them criminals—perform door-to-door solicitations on its behalf. Court of Appeals affirmed trial court decision. 2013 Wash. App. LEXIS 44 (Wash. App. 2013)

Linda Cawley v. Vancouver Columbian

Defended newspaper in defamation action brought by teacher, based on published articles about investigation into alleged classroom assault, with trial court granting summary judgment. (Clark Cnty. (Wash.) Super. Ct. 2013)

Bertsch v. Twentieth Century Fox Television, et al.

Represented Fox entities and Rupert Murdoch in lawsuit brought by plaintiff alleging that the film "Donnie Darko" and television series "The X-Files" and "Burn Notice" were based on his life. A day after defendants filed an anti-SLAPP motion, the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed his lawsuit with prejudice. (W.D. Wash. 2012)

XYZ Media, Inc. v. United States Golf Association et al.

Defended lawsuit asserting allegations of unfair competition, trademark and copyright infringement violations, and breach of contract claims relating to social networking website for golfers. After a motion to dismiss was filed, the case settled in early 2013. (W.D. Wash. 2012)

Davis v. Avvo, Inc.

Represented lawyer ratings website on unfair competition, misappropriation, and related claims brought by disgruntled attorney. Court granted special motion to strike the complaint under Washington's anti-SLAPP statute, awarding the defendant its attorneys' fees and the $10,000 statutory penalty. (W.D. Wash. 2012)

Peterson v. Kellogg

Represented counterclaim defendant against libel and related claims stemming from his Better Business Bureau complaint and reviews about the plaintiff’s vintage Land Rover repair and restoration business. Defendant brought anti-SLAPP motion, and the court denied plaintiff’s request to lift the discovery stay. Case settled later that day. (Thurston Cnty. (Wash.) Super. Ct. 2012)

ACLU v. Office of Director of National Intelligence, et. al.

Secured for national civil liberties organization a federal court order in 2011 requiring more detailed explanation from agencies that withheld records under the Freedom of Information Act relating to intelligence community's use of sweeping electronic surveillance powers under the 2008 FISA Amendments Act. (S.D.N.Y. 2011)

Castello v. City of Seattle

Obtained dismissal of defamation and related claims and award of attorneys' fees and costs under Washington's recently enacted anti-SLAPP statute, where claims arose from statements a public employee allegedly made to her superiors, a co-worker, and a local television station. 2011 WL 219671, 39 Media L. Rep. 1601 (W.D. Wash. 2011)

Phillips v. KIRO

Representation of KIRO-TV against defamation and privacy claims brought by Christopher Phillips, a former Renton-area eye surgeon. Obtained dismissal of claims, the case is on appeal by Phillips. Related cases: Phillips v. Seattle Times Co., Phillips v. Newspaper Holdings, Inc., Phillips v. World Publishing Co., Phillips v. Hearst Corporation, Inc. (W.D. Wash. 2011)

Snyder v. Phelps

Submitted amicus brief on behalf of twenty-two media organizations urging the U.S. Supreme Court to decide that intrusion and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims cannot be based solely on the publication of offensive opinions about matters of public concern. The Court agreed, ruling 8-1 that the speech at issue is protected by the First Amendment. Read the amicus brief. 562 U.S. 9 (2011)

Sorrell v. IMS Health Inc.

Submitted amicus brief in the U.S. Supreme Court in support of First Amendment rights of marketers and advertisers against Vermont statute requiring "opt-in" for any use of prescriber-identifiable data regarding prescription drug information. The Court held 6-3 that the state cannot restrict commercial speech for being too persuasive. Read the amicus brief. (U.S. 2011)

The Boeing Company and International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers District Lodge 751 - NLRB Proceeding

Represented major news provider before administrative law judge in NLRB proceeding in effort to ensure procedure regarding sealed documents comported with First Amendment right of access. Judge issued opinion recognizing that the right applied even in the context of a federal administrative proceeding, a subject on which federal appellate courts are split. (2011)

Aronson v. Dog Eat Dog Films, Inc.

Successfully represented a film production company in motion to dismiss invasion of privacy and misappropriation claims relating to the documentary film 'Sicko.' This was the first substantive decision to apply Washington's new anti-SLAPP statute, which provided important procedural safeguards for media entities and others against unwarranted and meritless suits that stem from the exercise of defendants' First Amendment rights. 738 F.Supp.2d 1104 ( W.D. Wash. 2010)

Curious Theatre Co. v. Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment

Represented Theatre Communications Group, which includes 476 theaters, as amicus in support of First Amendment challenge to Colorado law outlawing theatrical smoking. (09-1118) Read the amicus brief. 220 P.3d 544 (Colo. 2009) Cert. pet. (U.S. 2010)

Doe v. Reed

Submitted amicus brief on behalf of national and Washington state media in support of constitutionality of the Washington Public Records Act, which required public disclosure of names of referendum sponsors and signatures. 130 S.Ct. 2811 (U.S. 2010)

Seattle Times Co. v. Serko

Represented newspaper before Washington Supreme Court and trial court in public records litigation over police investigative files stemming from the 2009 shooting of four police officers. Obtained a unanimous decision that police records cannot be categorically withheld from public access, even in the face of a claim that disclosure threatens the suspect's fair trial rights. 170 Wash.2d 581, 243 P.3d 919 (Wash. App. 2010)

Brain vs. Halsne

Defended KIRO-7, a Seattle-based television station, and one of its reporters in a defamation lawsuit brought by a Tacoma, Wash., pediatric dentist. Cause No. 07-06234-9 (Pierce Cnty. (Wash.) Super. Ct. 2009)

Cawley-Herrmann v. Meredith Corporation

Successfully represented Meredith Corp., owner of KPTV in Portland, Ore., in motion to dismiss and subsequent motion for reconsideration in a lawsuit brought by plaintiff alleging a new theory of invasion of privacy through the publicity of her identity as the subject of allegedly false and unsubstantiated allegations. 654 F.Supp.2d 1264 (W.D. Wash. 2009)

Hust v. State of Wyoming, et al.

In federal court, represented media defendants accused by the plaintiff of defamation. Defendants won a dismissal with prejudice on grounds that the two-year statute of limitations had expired. The dismissal was affirmed by the 9th Circuit in March 2010. 372 Fed. Appx. 708, 2010 WL 1174584 (W.D. Wash. 2009)

Hutchison v. KIRO Inc.

Represented local television station in a motion to unseal summary judgment documents filed in a discrimination lawsuit brought by a former news anchor. The court ordered the documents to be unsealed with only a few redactions. Cause No. 03-2-39320-7 (King Cnty. (Wash.) Super. Ct. 2009)

United States of America v. Lucretia and United States v. Ferris

Represented CBC in granting an order, in part, to intervene and unseal documents from federal criminal court files for use in its television program 'The Fifth Estate.' (2009)

Zango, Inc. v. Kaspersky Lab, Inc.

Summary judgment dismissing lawsuit against distributor of anti-malware products, recognizing 'robust' immunity under 47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(2) enabling consumer access to information about potentially 'objectionable' software. In 2009, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit affirmed the lower court's 2007 dismissal. WL 1655217 (W.D. Wash., 9th Cir. 2009)

Fair Housing Council of San Fernando Valley, et al. v., LLC

Submitted amicus brief on behalf of media amici in 9th Circuit's en banc review of the scope of immunity afforded by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to mixed-content websites. No. 04-56916 (en banc) 521 F.3d 1157 (9th Cir. 2008)

Walters v. Seattle School District No. 1

Represented The Seattle Times in an unusual lawsuit alleging civil rights violations arising from the newspaper's coverage of a recruiting scandal involving two high school basketball coaches. The district court granted the Times' motion to dismiss because it concluded that there were no valid allegations of conspiracy or of interference in contractual relations stemming from news coverage. 578 F.Supp.2d 1310 (W.D. Wash. 2008)

WizKids, LLC v. Michael, Best & Friedrich, LLP

Represented plaintiffs in legal malpractice claim arising from failure of prior patent counsel to secure U.S. patent rights on collectible miniature war game; successfully settled. (King Cnty. (Wash.) Super. Ct. 2008)

Browne v. Avvo, Inc.

Defended attorney evaluation website. Court granted motion to dismiss on First Amendment opinion grounds, also holding that distribution of information is not 'commerce' under state consumer protection laws. 525 F. Supp. 2d 1249 (W.D. Wash. 2007)

Clapp v. Olympic View Publishing Co.

Represented defendant in favorable application of public reports privilege by Division II in defamation lawsuit, affirming dismissal of case on the pleadings. 137 Wn. App. 470, 154 P.3d 230 (Wash. App. 2007)

Paterson v. Little, Brown & Co.

Secured summary judgment dismissing defamation and false light claims brought by 'father of DOS' computer operating system against book publisher, author and researcher on grounds that statements in suit were protected opinion or were not published with actual malice. 502 F. Supp. 2d 1124 (W.D. Wash. 2007)

Powers v. City of Seattle

Successfully represented The Seattle Times Company in an opposing motion to join media entities as indispensable parties in a defamation lawsuit filed by terminated city employee against City of Seattle. Judge ruled that our client would not be added as a defendant. 242 F.R.D. 566 (W.D. Wash. 2007) Read more

Berry v. Penguin Group (USA), Inc.

Won dismissal of copyright lawsuit against book publisher on jurisdictional grounds. 448 F. Supp. 2d 1202 (W.D. Wash. 2006)

Spafford v. EchoStar Communications Corp.

Represented defendant in a First Amendment challenge to regulations barring telephone solicitation, but the court declined our client's motion to dismiss. 448 F. Supp. 2d 1220 (W.D. Wash. 2006)

Fidelity Mortgage Corp. v. The Seattle Times Company

Affirmed dismissal of lawsuit alleging unfair trade practice liability by the newspaper's real estate news articles and mortgage rate advertising policies, resulting in a sanctions award against the plaintiff and his attorney. 131 Wn. App. 462, 128 P.3d 621 (2005) Read more

Mohr v. Grant

Represented numerous print and broadcast media entities as amici curiae in State Supreme Court case challenging adoption of tort of libel by omission -- provided argument at State Supreme Court on behalf of amici. (2005)

Expeditors International of Washington, Inc. v. Expeditors (Japan) Ltd.

Dismissal of Japanese contract claims for lack of federal diversity jurisdiction. 224 F.R.D. 661 (W.D. Wash. 2004) Read more

Harris v. City of Seattle

On behalf of local broadcaster, granted summary judgment dismissing false light, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and outrage claims by former public official. 315 F. Supp. 2d 1105 (W.D. Wash. 2004)

Grassmueck v. Barnett

Represented plaintiff in a suit alleging breach of duty of care. Defendant claimed they shouldn't be sued for mismanagement because their articles of incorporation had indemnification provisions. However, the judge ruled that the director protection provision in the corporation's articles do not shield defendant directors and officers from liability, and the plaintiff's motion to dismiss was denied. 281 F. Supp. 2d 1227 (W.D. Wash. 2003)

Viacom Outdoor, Inc. v. Clallam County (Wash.)

Represented client in successful challenge to county sign ordinance. WL 21781131 (W.D. Wash. 2003)

Professional & Community Activities

  • Member; Chair, 1999-2000, Media Law and Defamation Torts Committee, Tort and Insurance Practice Section – American Bar Association
  • Member; Executive Committee, 2000-2005; President, 2004 – Defense Counsel Section, Media Law Resource Center
  • Media Law Reporter Advisory Board, 2005-present
  • Member, 2003-present; Regulation of Advertising Law Committee, 2013-2015 – Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers
  • Board Member, 1992-present; Chair, 2004-2006; President, 1999-2001 – Seattle Repertory Theatre Board of Trustees
  • Board Member, 2006-present; Chair, 2011-present – Seattle Repertory Theatre Foundation Board of Trustees
  • Member, National Council for the American Theater, 2005-present
  • Board Member, EmcArts Inc., 2007-2013
  • President and Board Member, Pacific Musicworks, 2007-present
  • Board Member, Seattle Opera, 2015-present

Professional Recognition

  • Named as one of "America's Leading Lawyers for Business" by Chambers USA in First Amendment Litigation (Nationwide), 2007-2017
  • Named by Best Lawyers  as Seattle's "Lawyer of the Year" in First Amendment, 2012, 2014, 2015 
  • Named as one of the "Best Lawyers in America" in First Amendment Law by Best Lawyers, 1993-present; named in Ethics and Professional Responsibility Law, 2010-present
  • Selected to "Top 100 Washington Super Lawyers," 2012-2013; "Washington Super Lawyers," Thomson Reuters, 2008-2018
  • Named as one of "155 Top Lawyers" by Seattle Magazine and Seattle Business Monthly, 2007
  • Avvo rated
"He brings a scholarly approach to the law. He is very good on analysis and his brief writing is just incredible."  -Chambers USA 2018
Bruce Johnson named best lawyer, read press release
Recognized by Chambers USA – Chambers and Partners