Heather Murray ’13 to Lead First Amendment Clinic’s Local Journalism ProjectIthaca, NEW YORK, July 31, 2020
Heather Murray ’13 has been named to the newly created position of managing attorney of the Local Journalism Project, an initiative of Cornell Law School’s First Amendment Clinic. As managing attorney, Murray will oversee all of the legal work that the clinic does on behalf of local media outlets in New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and surrounding areas.
The position was made possible by generous grants from both The Knight Foundation and the Legal Clinic Fund, a collaborative fund supported by the Abrams Foundation, Democracy Fund, the Heising-Simons Foundation, and the Klarman Family Foundation.
Murray joins the clinic after practicing as a litigator in the New York offices of international law firms Seyfarth Shaw and Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft. Prior to pursuing a legal career, Murray was a journalist working for news outlets in Westchester and New York City.
“We created the Local Journalism Project within the clinic to give even more focus and attention to our work on behalf of local media outlets,” said Mark H. Jackson, director of the First Amendment Clinic. “Bringing Heather on to oversee this work will take this initiative to another level and allow us to take on even more critical matters for our clients who are doing such essential work.”
Through its Local Journalism Project, the First Amendment Clinic has represented numerous news outlets in recent years, including VT Digger, Vermont’s largest not-for-profit news platform, in its efforts to obtain vital documents related to a major fraud committed in that state. Most recently, it was retained by the Geneva Believer, a news site in Geneva, New York, to defend it against a defamation lawsuit brought by a local construction company. The clinic recently won a ruling denying the company’s application to remove all of the news site’s prior reporting about the company.
“I am honored to come home to Cornell to join its First Amendment Clinic nearly a decade after I first worked alongside clinical professors as a student,” said Murray. “I know only too well the very real challenges facing local journalists trying to cover the actions of local and state governments, especially in these difficult economic times. I am looking forward to furthering the First Amendment clinic’s critical work in providing access to pro bono legal services to these journalists, who oftentimes have limited resources to devote to legal representation.”
Murray joins a growing staff at the First Amendment Clinic, which includes Cortelyou Kenney, associate director; and Tyler Valeska, a fellow. The clinic is engaged in a variety of cases and projects advancing the interests of free speech and freedom of the press. Its work extends across disciplines, impacting journalists, researchers, human rights advocates, political advocates, and other individuals targeted based on their expression. The clinic is in the process of hiring a New York City-based local journalism attorney, a satellite position that will enable the clinic to represent more local journalists in the New York metropolitan area.
Knight Foundation is a national foundation with strong local roots. It invests in journalism, in the arts, and in the success of cities where brothers John S. And James L. Knight once published newspapers. Its goal is to foster informed and engaged communities, which it believes are essential for a healthy democracy. It believes in freedom of expression and in the values expressed in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
The Legal Clinic Fund is a collaborative fund to support the growth and sustainability of legal clinics across the United States that seek to advance and defend First Amendment rights, media freedom, and transparency in their communities and nationally. The fund is generously supported by the Abrams Foundation, Democracy Fund, Heising-Simons Foundation, and The Klarman Family Foundation. The Miami Foundation serves as fiscal sponsor for the Fund.