Regular readers of The Daily Sentinel will recognize the name Steve Zansberg.
He is known for his work representing local and national media outlets to secure public records from governments that don’t want to disclose them. He has also been integral to securing public records in high-profile cases such as the Aurora theater shooting, the JonBenet Ramsey case and the Columbine High School tragedy.
For The Daily Sentinel, Zansberg has delivered forceful counsel when our local governments have attempted to roll up the windows on the public’s right to know. Use the search feature on gjsentinel.com to see the dozens of local issues where he has played a role.
A few recent examples include when Interior Secretary Sally Jewell closed a public meeting in Craig, the withholding of information around former county administrator Frank Whidden’s resignation, and the two-hour illegal executive session to discuss the severance of former Grand Junction city manager Rich Englehart.
Note in each of these cases that the government “won” in that this newspaper could not afford to sue to obtain the illegally withheld information. It will be important in a moment.
Zansberg began his career as a local television reporter in San Francisco before accepting a scholarship to attend Yale Law School. He took the path chosen by many high-performing young lawyers to a large, national law firm. He later started a Colorado office for a national boutique firm specializing in First Amendment issues.
He is now the pre-eminent First Amendment lawyer in the Rocky Mountain region. No one person has done more in the state of Colorado for citizens’ right to know what their governments are up to than Zansberg.
Now at the zenith of his career — at the top of the law firm pyramid — he has done something truly extraordinary.
Well, he quit the big firm. He did so for the rarest of reasons: to lower his hourly rate.
“The industry that is my client base has been beset by economic challenges that precede the pandemic,” he told the Denver Business Journal. “The pandemic has made matters far worse for the news industry, in particular print, as ad revenue has plummeted. A good number of my clients have accelerated the prior trend of staff cuts and are working to keep the lights on.”
He now works from his home with only a paralegal assisting him in order to keep rates low so struggling newspapers can afford him.
Bless this man.
Remember that part about The Daily Sentinel not having the resources to take our local governments to court when they violate Colorado open meetings and open records laws?
That may have just changed.