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Admitted to Practice

  • U.S. Supreme Court, 1997
  • California, 1985
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 9th Circuit, 1986
  • U.S. Court of Appeals 10th Circuit, 1997
  • U.S. District Court Central District of California, 1986
  • U.S. District Court Southern District of California, 1989
  • U.S. District Court Northern District of California, 1986
  • U.S. District Court Eastern District of California, 1989
  • U.S. District Court Western District of Wisconsin, 2001

Kelli L. Sager

Kelli Sager has more than 30 years of litigation experience representing television and radio broadcasters, cable companies, motion picture producers and distributors, newspapers and magazines, book authors, Internet companies, and Web publishers, both at the trial and appellate level of federal and state courts. Her practice encompasses all areas of media and entertainment litigation, including defamation, privacy, idea submission claims, access, prior restraint, reporter's shield laws, copyright and trademark law, and Internet law.

Practice Highlights
  • Has appeared numerous times before the California Supreme Court and the California Courts of Appeal, and before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, including such cases as Brown v. Electronic Arts and Keller v. Electronic Arts, NBC Subsidiary v. Superior Court, Shulman v. CBS, California Comm'n on Peace Officer Standards and Training v. Superior Court, Burkle v. Burkle, and Thomas v. Los Angeles Times.
  • Regularly represents media outlets requesting access to records and proceedings in high-profile trials, including the trials of O.J. Simpson, Phil Spector, Winona Ryder, Anthony Pellicano, Robert Blake, and others.

Representative Experience

Maloney v. T3Media, Inc.

Represented T3Media, a provider of digital hosting and licensing services, in a right-of-publicity lawsuit brought by two former college athletes on behalf of a putative class based on the display and licensing of NCAA photographs on a website owned by T3Media. District court granted T3Media’s SLAPP motion and subsequent fee motion. Plaintiffs appealed, and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed the lower court’s ruling. Plaintiffs subsequently agreed to pay an additional fee award. (C.D. Cal., 9th Cir. 2017)

Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs v. Los Angeles Times

Successfully defended against an effort by the union representing Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies to restrain the Los Angeles Times from publishing information from Sheriff’s Department background investigative files. The court granted the Times’ SLAPP Motion after previously rejecting the union’s application for a temporary restraining order. The Court of Appeal affirmed in full. 239 Cal. App. 4th 808 (2015)

Coleman v. Brown

Represented the Los Angeles Times in a successful emergency petition to the 9th Circuit to vacate a prior restraint in a high-profile lawsuit about California’s treatment of mentally ill prisoners. The trial judge allowed videos to be shown in open court depicting guards using force against inmates, but barred anyone who viewed them from publicly disclosing the names of individuals shown in the videos. A unanimous 9th Circuit panel vacated the prior restraint. (9th Cir. 2013)

In re Marriage of McCourt

Represented the Los Angeles Times in successfully opposing a motion to seal court records related to the ownership of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Times intervened in the divorce case of the team’s former owners, Frank and Jamie McCourt, to oppose an effort by the new owner to seal a document describing Frank McCourt’s ongoing financial arrangement with the team. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge denied the motion and ordered the record unsealed. (Cal. Super. Ct. 2013)

Los Angeles Times Communications, LLC v. Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Commission

Represented the Los Angeles Times in a lawsuit against the joint state-county-city agency that operates the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge found that the Commission violated the open meetings law by holding numerous improper closed sessions related to a deal to transfer long-term control of the Coliseum to the University of Southern California, and that the agency violated the Public Records Act by withholding and delaying disclosure of numerous records requested by The Times. The judge ordered the Commission to produce the documents and to record its closed sessions for three years, in addition to other injunctive and declaratory relief. The Commission elected not to appeal the ruling, and agreed to pay The Times more than $340,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs. (Cal. Super. Ct. 2013)

Hanks v. A&E Television Networks

Defended A&E Television Networks in lawsuit brought by a heckler who was confronted by Bristol Palin during the filming of her television program, "Bristol Palin: Life’s a Tripp," claiming that his privacy was invaded by the disclosure that he is gay. The network’s SLAPP motion was granted, and court awarded 100 percent of the fees requested by AETN. (Cal. Super. Ct. 2013)

Tur v. A&E Television Networks

Represented A&E Television Networks in theft-of-ideas lawsuit arising from AETN’s documentary television series "Why I Ran." After establishing that plaintiff did not own the rights to the program on which his claims were based, the network had case voluntarily dismissed in August 2012, in exchange for a waiver of costs and fees. (C.D. Cal. 2012)

David Strick v. Los Angeles Times Communications, LLC, et al.

Represented the Los Angeles Times and the Tribune Company in a copyright infringement lawsuit brought by a freelance photographer who claimed that the defendants were liable for more than 500 violations of his copyrights for the use of photographs that the Times defendants claimed were covered by a license agreement. Succeeded in a motion to compel arbitration in 2011. In 2012, succeeded in obtaining a judgment from the arbitrator in favor of the Times and the Tribune dismissing the lawsuit, and granting the defendants' request for attorneys' fees and costs in excess of $260,000. Order confirming arbitration award entered in 2014. (C.D. Cal./Arbitration 2014)

Hebrew University of Jerusalem v. General Motors

Defended General Motors against claims that it misappropriated the publicity rights of Albert Einstein and falsely implied the plaintiff endorsed its vehicle by featuring an image of Einstein in an advertisement. The court dismissed the Lanham Act and unfair competition claims on summary judgment and the remaining claims before trial, finding that under New Jersey law, Einstein’s rights of publicity had expired before publication of the ad. The plaintiff appealed, the case settled, and the decision on Einstein’s publicity rights was vacated. (2015)

Long Beach Police Officers' Association v. City of Long Beach

Represented the Los Angeles Times in the newspaper's attempts under the California Public Records Act to obtain records identifying officers involved in shooting incidents. In June 2014, the California Supreme Court ruled 6-1 in favor of the Times, holding that the press and public presumptively are entitled to the identities of officers involved in shooting incidents. 59 Cal. 4th 59 (Cal. 2014)

Omidi v. Hiltzik; Omidi v. Pfeifer; Silverman v. Hiltzik, 1-800GET THIN LLC v. Hiltzik

Represented the Los Angeles Times in a series of related cases, all of which arose from The Times' reporting about two brothers, both former Beverly Hills surgeons, who began a lucrative weight-loss business. Omidi v. Hiltzik and Omidi v. Pfeifer alleged defamation based on reporting by The Times, and Silverman v. Hiltzik alleged illegal recording of phone conversations by a Times columnist. All three cases were thrown out on early motions under California's SLAPP law, and fees were awarded to the Times in each case. A fourth case alleging violations of federal trademark laws was also thrown out by a federal judge on an early motion. (Cal. Super. Ct. 2011; C.D. Cal. 2011)

NBC Subsidiary v. Superior Court

Represented the Los Angeles Times in access matter that resulted in landmark decision finding federal constitutional right of access to civil trials. (Cal. 1999)

Leiber, et al. v. Grokster, Ltd.

Represented a class of songwriters and music publishers in Grokster copyright infringement action against peer-to-peer file-sharing services. Plaintiffs obtained unanimous decision from the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that defendants could be held liable for inducing copyright infringement. (C.D. Cal., 9th Cir., U.S.)

Diaz v. NBC Universal, Inc.

Represented Universal Pictures in obtaining dismissal of libel class action based on the film "American Gangster," which was affirmed by 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. (S.D.N.Y. 2009, 2d Cir. 2010)

Love v. Associated Newspapers, Ltd., et al.

Defended British newspaper The Mail On Sunday in copyright, trademark and right of publicity action by Beach Boys band member over U.K. distribution of promotional CD. Obtained dismissal based on lack of personal jurisdiction; appeal was dismissed voluntarily. 611 F.3d 601 (9th Cir. 2010), aff’d 489 F. Supp. 2d 1100 (C.D. Cal. 2007)

Crowder & Freitas v. NBC Universal Inc, et al.

Represented NBC Universal against a last-minute TRO application filed by screenwriters who attempted to enjoin nationwide release of the Jennifer Aniston film, "Love Happens." The plaintiffs' claim that the film's script was substantially similar to a script they claimed to have previously pitched to NBC/Universal was rejected by the federal district judge, who found that the two scripts were not at all similar. Immediately following the decision, plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed their lawsuit. (C. D. Cal. 2009)

ANT v. The Gurin Company

Represented The Gurin Company in a lawsuit brought by a comedian known as 'ANT,' who claimed that his trademark and identity were misappropriated by Gurin's television program, "Wanna Bet," which starred the British comedy duo "Ant and Dec." All claims against Gurin were dismissed by the federal district judge and attorneys' fees were awarded. ANT dismissed his appeal in exchange for a waiver of fees. (C.D. Cal. 2010-2011)

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

Represented 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)

Hollywood v. Universal Pictures

Represented Universal Pictures in successfully opposing effort by criminal defendant to enjoin nationwide release of the film "Alpha Dog." (2007) Read more

California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training v. Superior Court (Los Angeles Times Communications LLC, Real Party in Interest)

Represented the Los Angeles Times in a case involving the newspaper's attempts to obtain state records on police hiring under the California Public Records Act. In August 2007, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Times, in a precedent-setting decision that expansively interpreted the public's rights under the CPRA. 42 Cal. 4th 278 (Cal. 2007)

Thomas v. Los Angeles Times Communications

Obtained order granting newspaper's special motion to strike defamation claims arising from article evaluating possibly exaggerated claims of heroism by World War II figure. Affirmed by 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. (C.D. Cal., 9th Cir. 2002)

In re Marriage of Burkle

Represented the Los Angeles Times in challenging state statute restricting access to court records in divorce cases. The California Court of Appeals ruled that divorce records are subject to the constitutional right of access, and the California Supreme Court denied review in May 2006, making the Court of Appeals' decision binding law in California. 139 Cal. App. 4th 712 (Cal. App. 2006)

Brower v. E! Entertainment Television

Successfully defended E! Entertainment Television in three-week jury trial of idea submission claims relating to a television series. Obtained directed verdict that was affirmed on appeal. (Cal. Super. Ct. 2001)

Research in Motion Ltd. v. Samsung Telecommunications America, et al.

Represented Cingular Wireless LLC as an intervening defendant in a trademark and trade dress dispute brought by RIM against Samsung in connection with the BlackJack smartphone. Following Cingular's intervention, RIM voluntarily dismissed its original complaint concerning the BlackJack. (C.D. Cal. 2007)

Professional & Community Activities

  • Past Chair, Media Committee, International Bar Association, 2009-2011
  • President, 2008-2009; Ex-Officio, 2009-2010; Executive Committee Member, 2006-2008 – Media Law Resource Center Defense Counsel Section
  • Bench Bar Media Steering Committee, Judicial Council of California, 2008-2010
  • Western Division Chair, 2002-2016; Immediate Past Chair, 2000-2002; Former Chair, 1998-2000; Governing Board, 1997-1998 – ABA Forum on Communications Law
  • Chair, 9th Circuit Conference Executive Committee, 2008-2009; Program Chair, 2007-2008; Committee Member, 2005-2007; 9th Circuit Judicial Conference Attorney Delegate (C.D. Cal.), 2002-2005
  • International Advisory Board, National Institute of Entertainment and Media Law, Southwestern University of Law, 2001-present
  • Donald W. Reynolds National Center for the Courts and Media Advisory Committee, National Judicial College, 2000-present
  • Co-chair, First Amendment Committee, Litigation Section, American Bar Association, 2005-2008
  • Board of Directors, 2002-2006; Treasurer, 2005-2006 – Los Angeles Copyright Society
  • Board of Directors, Public Counsel, 2001-2007

Professional Recognition

  • Named one of the "Most Influential Women Attorneys," Los Angeles Business Journal, 2018
  • Named "Media & Entertainment MVP of the Year," Law360, 2017
  • Received the "John M. Davis Award for Outstanding Legal Expertise," Davis Wright Tremaine, 2016
  • Named one of the "Top Intellectual Property Attorneys in California" Los Angeles Daily Journal, 2016
  • Named as one of the "Top 75 Intellectual Property Litigators," 2011-2015; "Top 50 Intellectual Property Lawyers," 2008-2009; "Top Intellectual Property Litigators," 2017; Los Angeles Daily Journal
  • Named one of two "Star Individuals" in First Amendment Litigation (Nationwide) by Chambers USA, 2011-2018
  • Named as one of "America's Leading Lawyers for Business" in First Amendment Litigation (Nationwide) by Chambers USA, 2007-2018; in Media & Entertainment: First Amendment Litigation (California), 1996-2018; Named a "Star Individual" for Media & Entertainment: First Amendment Litigation (California), 2017-2018
  • Freedom of Information Award, California Newspaper Publishers Association, 2015 
  • Named as one of the "Top Women Litigators," by the Los Angeles Daily Journal, 2005-2017
  • Named as one of the "Top 100 Lawyers in California" by the Los Angeles Daily Journal, 1998-2004, 2008-2017
  • Selected by Best Lawyers as Los Angeles' "Lawyer of the Year" in First Amendment Law, 2012-2014, 2016, 2018
  • Named one of the "Best Lawyers in America" in Media Law and First Amendment Law by Best Lawyers, 1995-present
  • Selected to "Southern California Super Lawyers," Thomson Reuters, 2004-2018
  • Named by the Hollywood Reporter as one of the "Top 100 Power Lawyers-Litigation," 2007-2012, 2015, 2017 
  • Selected to "Top 50 Women Southern California Super Lawyers," Thomson Reuters, 2013-2016 
  • Named as one of "500 Leading Lawyers in America," 2005, 2007, 2010-2017, and one of "500 Leading Litigators in America," 2006, by Lawdragon
  • Named as one of "Top 50 Most Influential Women Litigators" by the National Law Journal, 2007
  • Named to "The Legal 500 U.S. Edition," 2007
  • Named to "Who's Who in L.A. Law" by the Los Angeles Business Journal, 2007
  • First Amendment Award, American Civil Liberties Union, 1996
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