SPLC pays tribute to Dick Goehler, longtime friend of the student media and SPLC board chairman


Contact: Beverly Keneagy, 904.626.0017 / bkeneagy@splc.org

Richard M. Goehler, a Cincinnati media-law attorney and Chairman of the Student Press Law Center’s Board of Directors, died early today at age 54 following a 10-month battle with leukemia.

Goehler has been an ally to the SPLC and student media for nearly two decades, providing countless hours of free representation to high school and college journalists on behalf of the organization. He was a partner with Frost Brown Todd LLC and practiced in media law, including digital, interactive and social media, advertising law, copyright and trademark. He was nationally known as a premier media and First Amendment litigator, and was chairman of the American Bar Association’s Section on Communications Law in 2009-10.

“For the student media, the loss of Dick Goehler truly is a death in the family. This is someone who was at the very top of his profession, an absolute giant in his field, who gave unselfishly of his time and talent to make the world a better place to be a student journalist. He did it out of a pure love for the First Amendment, and a belief in the power of student journalism as a force for good,” said Frank D. LoMonte, executive director of the Student Press Law Center.

“I very well remember the conversation over lunch when Dick first asked me – like he was asking to marry my daughter – whether it would be ‘okay with me’ if he put his name up for chairman of our board. And I was just overjoyed and I thought, ‘no matter what happens to me, I can know that the SPLC is in the best possible hands,’” LoMonte said. “One of the great comforts I’ve always had is knowing we had Dick Goehler‘s rock-solid leadership to help get us through the toughest times. I am beyond words to describe how hard this loss is hitting all of us on the board and staff who have benefited from Dick’s kindness, his wisdom and his good humor.”

The Student Press Law Center (SPLC) is a Washington, D.C.-area nonprofit founded in 1974 to advocate for free-press rights for high school and college journalists. It provides legal information and referral assistance at no charge to student journalists and the educators who work with them.

Goehler was the first lawyer to whom the SPLC referred a case after its Attorney Referral Network was formed in the 1990s. He represented the SPLC in two of the most noteworthy college censorship cases the SPLC has taken on to date: filing an amicus brief in the Kincaid v. Gibson college censorship case before the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Tennessee; and arguing the Hosty v. Carter case on the SPLC’s behalf before the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Illinois.

SPLC Consulting Attorney Mike Hiestand, who has known Goehler for nearly 20 years, said: “His work and dedication is being mourned by many in the media community. For nearly two decades he was just about as good a friend to the SPLC and student media as we've ever had. We have lost a true champion.”

Mark Goodman, who served as SPLC executive director for 22 years and now serves as a professor and Knight Chair in Scholastic Journalism at Kent State University, said Goehler “was a great friend to the SPLC. He was an outstanding and generous lawyer and just a great human being. The student press has lost a great friend and advocate.”

Goodman said Goehler’s stature was evidenced by a Seventh Circuit panel’s opinion in the Hosty case affording special respect to his friend-of-the-court brief: “They described it as ‘a superb amicus brief filed by attorney Richard M. Goehler on behalf of a bevy of student press associations.’ Appeals court judges almost never comment on a lawyer in a court opinion. The fact that these three judges did was an indication of how remarkable Dick was.”

Susan Grogan Faller, who leads Frost Brown Todd’s Media and First Amendment Group, described Goehler as a “media lawyer extraordinaire. Dick truly gave it his all and brought an enthusiasm that was infectious and second to none. He will be greatly missed and warmly remembered in so many ways.”

Goehler, who has served on the SPLC Board of Directors for six years, was unanimously selected as chair effective January 2011. He was a regular presenter and author on topics related to First Amendment and prior restraint, defamation and invasion of privacy matters, newsgathering litigation and advertising issues. In addition to chairing the ABA Forum on Communications Law, he is past co-chair of the ABA’s First Amendment & Media Litigation Committee. Goehler received his law degree from The University of Notre Dame where he graduated magna cum laude.

Since 1974, the Student Press Law Center has been devoted to educating high school and college journalists about the rights and responsibilities embodied in the First Amendment, and supporting the student news media in covering important issues free from censorship. The Center provides free information and educational materials for student journalists and their teachers on a wide variety of legal topics on its website at www.splc.org.