2022, 2023, 2024 Best Lawyer in America Award from Best Lawyers in First Amendment Law and Litigation - First Amendment
2023 Chambers USA nationally ranked attorney for First Amendment Litigation
Massachusetts "Super Lawyer" each year from 2004-2024
Rob Bertsche joined Klaris Law in late 2021 because today’s creative world is moving too fast for any of us to stand still. As an adviser, counselor, and fighter for media entities for several decades, Rob wanted to be sure his clients had access to the very latest expertise as new forms of creative messaging evolve. So he brought his journalistic chops, boundless curiosity, and hard-won legal wisdom to a firm that can help him apply it to emerging media and technologies.
Rob thrives on working with journalists, documentary filmmakers, editors, producers, and all manner of creative types. His idea of success is when he has helped a writer, photographer, or artist fulfill their vision while managing and minimizing their real-world risk—and has done so without leaving any telltale legal footprints. Perhaps that’s because he started his working life as a newspaperman, then studied publishing, then helped fact-check and edit a start-up magazine—all before attending law school and cultivating a lifelong love affair with the First Amendment. He remains a news junkie who works best when he’s on deadline.
Over many years, Rob has had the good fortune to craft a smorgasbord legal practice that complements his eclectic interests and skills: prepublication and pre-broadcast review … legal and editorial counseling … litigation avoidance and management.
Content review: For some of the nation’s most prominent media outlets, Rob is the first reader or viewer of choice, vetting content in a manner designed not only to help keep plaintiffs’ lawyers away, but also to help strengthen the reporter’s journalistic punch and the videographer’s desired effect. The depth of the Klaris team ensures that he has behind him, at all times, the necessary resources to calmly assist with both breaking news and editors’ last-minute changes of plans.
Editorial and legal counseling: Rob’s experience and enthusiasm allow him to fit seamlessly into what Klaris does best: serve as the extra in-house counsel you may not need every hour, or every day, but whose assistance and knowledge of your business become critically important at crunch time, or when some legally sensitive editorial decisions are being made. It’s easy to find an attorney who thinks like a lawyer. Rob is a lawyer who thinks like an editor. He’ll be there to partner with you when you’re making tough decisions.
Litigation and litigation avoidance: Rob has spent much of his career in court, defending media against libel claims, battling to wrest access to government secrets, and helping courts properly interpret the crazyquilt that we call modern copyright law. There’s little he loves more than calmly explaining to a sometimes-skeptical judge that the First Amendment means editorial decisions should be made in the newsroom, not in the courtroom. But Rob also knows that litigation is one of the most inefficient and unproductive ways of trying to resolve a dispute. He has the confidence to encourage compromise and peacemaking when appropriate, for, as Abe Lincoln put it, “[t]here will still be business enough.”
Rob serves as general counsel to the New England Newspaper and Press Association; is on the board of the New England First Amendment Coalition; and sits on the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s Judiciary-Media Committee. He is also board president of his community’s weekly online newspaper, the Needham Observer. He’s an Oliver Wendell Holmes Fellow of the Massachusetts Bar Foundation, and a Life Fellow of the American Bar Foundation. Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts of Massachusetts has honored him for his pro bono work. For the better part of two decades, he has been named to the Best Lawyers and Super Lawyers lists; Best Lawyers named him Boston’s “Lawyer of the Year” for First Amendment Litigation in 2022 and 2024, and Boston magazine has recognized him as a “Top Lawyer.” He is also nationally ranked by Chambers & Partners in the category of First Amendment: Litigation.
Though he anchors Klaris’s Boston location, Rob proudly admits to having been born and raised in New Jersey. He cries at commercials. He’s no good at tennis despite years of lessons. And he hopes before he dies to have committed at least one jazz or Broadway piano piece to memory.
Mandel v. Boston Phoenix, Inc., 483 F. Supp. 2d 67, 492 F. Supp. 2d 26 (D. Mass. 2006, 2007) (counsel to individual defendants in libel case re-trial that resulted in hung jury and later settled)
Martin v. Roy, 54 Mass. App. Ct. 642 (2002) (tried and obtained Superior Court defense verdict on libel claim by college professor; obtained affirmance on appeal) without requiring disclosure of journalist’s confidential sources.
Other Media Defamation Cases:
Clopper v. The Harvard Crimson, Inc., No. 20-2140 (1st Cir. Aug. 1, 2022), summarily affirming No. 1:20-cv-11363 (D. Mass. Nov. 5, 2020) (succeeded on motion to dismiss libel claim over newspaper headline describing plaintiff as having engaged in “anti-Semitic rant”).
Naessens v. Fiorillo, (8th Dist. Nev., filed Feb. 18, 2021) Defamation claim based on police misidentification of crime suspect; case settled favorably.
Hurwitz v. Newton Public Schools, et al., No. 1681-cv-03064 (Mass. Super. Ct. for Middlesex Cty., filed Oct. 24, 2016), removed, No. 1:17-cv-10231 (D. Mass. Feb. 23, 2017), remanded after dismissal of federal claims, No. 1681-cv-03064 (Mass. Super. Ct. for Middlesex Cty, July 14, 2017), dismissed November 2019. Successfully represented two community bloggers against libel and invasion of privacy claims; prevailed on motion to dismiss privacy claims, liberating one defendant; mid-discovery, obtained judgment for other defendant under Rule 37.
Cona v. Metro Corp. Holdings, Inc., No. 190202514 (Penn. Ct. Com. Pleas for Phila. Cty., filed 2019 and still pending against other defendants). After months of discussion, successfully persuaded plaintiff’s counsel to voluntarily dismiss libel claims against magazine and staff writer, without any payment and before even filing PreliminaryObjections.
Dandelias v. Giulii et al., No. 170200228 (Penn. Ct. Com. Pleas for Phila. Cty., filed Jan. 25, 2017). Obtained non-prosecution dismissal of libel claim in 2019 after sending demand letter that had led to plaintiff’s two lawyers’ withdrawal from representation.
Lemelson et al. v. Bloomberg LP et al., No. 16-11650 (Mass. Super. Ct., filed May 10, 2016), removed, 253 F. Supp. 3d 333 (D. Mass. 2017), aff’d (1st Cir. Aug. 8, 2018) (with J. Korn, Willkie Farr). Obtained dismissal of defamation and related claims against news publisher, author, and editor, based on failure to plead actual malice; obtained affirmance by First Circuit on appeal.
Ayyadurai v. Floor64, Inc., 270 F. Supp. 3d 343 (D. Mass. 2017). With J. Pyle, obtained 12(b)(6) dismissal of libel claims brought by self-styled “inventor of email” (represented by Charles Harder) against Techdirt blog that disputed his claim, and cross-appealed as to dismissal of blog’s anti-SLAPP claim under California law; case resolved on favorable terms after cross-appeals.
Green v. Cosby, No. 3:14-cv-30211-MGM (D. Mass, filed Dec. 10, 2014; settled and dismissed, May 2019). Represented nonparty magazine writer, opposing subpoena seeking notes from writer’s interviews of alleged Cosby victims; relying on common-law reporter’s privilege, we sent a R. 45 letter of objection in June 2016, after which plaintiff abandoned attempt for third-party discovery.
Copyright/Trademark Infringement Cases:
APL Microscopic, LLC et al. v. Pixels.com, LLC et al., No. 1:20-cv-04735, No. 1:20-cv-04735-GBD (SDNY Aug. 10, 2021) (succeeded on motion to dismiss plaintiff’s claim alleging copyright infringement by use of photograph on reproductions of magazine cover).
Michael Grecco Productrions, Inc. v Pixels.com, LLC et al., No. 1:20-cv-04875-NRB (SDNY July 28, 2021) (succeeded on motion to dismiss plaintiff’s claim alleging copyright infringement by use of photograph on reproductions of magazine cover).
Schatz et al. v. Pixels.com, LLC et al., No. 1:20-cc004893 (SDNY Oct. 13, 2020) (after negotiation, obtained plaintiff’s voluntary dismissal of copyright infringement claim arising out of licensed reproduction of photograph).
Informed Communications d/b/a Delaney Report v. Meredith Corp., No. 15-CV-9820 (SDNY, filed Dec. 16, 2015) Defended magazine publisher against claims of copyright infringement and unfair competition based on internal circulation of copies of newsletter: settled March 11, 2016.
Leahy d/b/a Everett Chiropractic v. Habibi, No. 13-81-cv-02100 (Middlesex Super. Ct. June 5, 2013) (trademark infringement case; favorably settled).
Other Media/First Amendment cases:
Jane Doe No. 1 et al. v. Backpage.com, LLC et al., 104 F. Supp. 3d 149, 165 (D. Mass. 2015), aff’d, 817 F.3d 12 (1st Cir. 2016) With Jeffrey J. Pyle, represented internet publisher in defense of claims based on third-party content; obtained appellate ruling that Section 230 of Communications Decency Act protected website.
Rogaris v. Doe 1, et al., No. 1681-cv-3529 (Mass. Super. Ct., Middlesex County Dec. 9, 2016). Represented nonparty Yelp Inc. to oppose plaintiff law firm’s motion to compel identification of anonymous internet commenter; after we filed opposition, plaintiff dismissed case before any ruling by court.
Bilodeau-Allen v. American Media, Inc., 549 F. Supp. 2d 129 (D. Mass. 2008). Obtained dismissal of invasion of privacy claim against tabloid newspaper.
Mullaly v. Fingliss, No. 07-73-cv-01768 (Suffolk Super. Ct. Dec. 14, 2009) (with Jeffrey J. Pyle) Successfully moved to quash third-party subpoena of newspaper editor (Gatehouse Media).
Noonan v. Staples, Inc., No. 07-2159 (1st Cir. Mar. 11, 2009). On behalf of consortium of 50 media entities, drafted and submitted amicus curiae brief to First Circuit Court of Appeals in employment libel case implicating constitutionality of Massachusetts statute purporting to permit liability without fault on private-figure private-concern libel claim.
McDermott and Space Hunters v. New York Metro LLC, et al., No. 1:08-cv-07524 (S.D.N.Y. filed Aug. 26, 2008) (one of a consortium of newspapers that successfully defended against claim of publication of discriminatory housing advertisements).
Richards v. Jenny Jones, WLVI-TV, et al., No. 0382-cv-01565 (Mass. Super. Ct. for Norfolk Cty. 2003). Succeeded on motion to dismiss negligence claim against nationally syndicated talk show, network, and location television station, arising out of program advocating “boot camp” for wayward children.