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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.

Representative Experience

  • 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  dismissal of a libel suit against a Denver television station and The Denver Post newspaper under Colorado's anti-SLAPP statute.  The court found that the publications at issue, that reported on a series of complaints against a private vendor to the state's Department of Public Health and Environment, were substantially true and protected by the "fair report" privilege.

  • 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,, 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 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.

Professional Highlights

Professional Activities

  • 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, 2024

    • "Lawyer of the Year," Litigation - First Amendment (Denver), 2018, 2020, 2022, 2024

  • 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

Oral Arguments

All Videos
18CA1316, 18CA1339, 18CA1806
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18CA1316, 18CA1339, 18CA1806

14-15267 Minden Pictures v. John Wiley & Sons
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14-15267 Minden Pictures v. John Wiley & Sons

15-16765 Anthony Delevin v. Ted Holteen
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15-16765 Anthony Delevin v. Ted Holteen

Media Appearances

Publications  (click on each title to open)

Spring 2019

Co-author, Recent Developments in Media, Privacy, Defamation, and Advertising Law, ABA Tort Trial &

Insurance Practice Law Journal 

Dec. 2017

California Court of Appeals Affirms Dismissal Under Anti-SLAPP Statute of Defamation Claim

Against Online Platform Hosting User-Generated Content, Ballard Spahr Alert 


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

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