Meet Your IPC : Deb Kristensen

debDeb Kristensen is an at-large member of the Idaho Press Club board. She is currently a partner at Givens Pursley specializing in media law. She was the third woman in the history of the Idaho State Bar to serve as its President and has been named one of the Best Lawyers in America since 2010, a Mountain States Super Lawyer and “Top 40 Women” Mountain States Super Lawyer. Deb was received the Women of the Year Award from the Idaho Business Review and the Idaho Women Lawyers top honor in 2005 for her work chronicling the first 50 women lawyers in Idaho.

Interviewed by Joan Cartan-Hansen

Where were you born and where did you grow up?

I was born outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and then moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin before ending up at the age of 5 in the Bay Area where I grew up.

What was your first job?

My first job (outside of babysitting the neighbors’ kids) was as a hostess/waitress for Bob’s Big Boy in Dublin, California at the age of 15.   Standing on your feet all day in a brown polyester uniform for minimum wage was a real motivator to continue my education.  And, as my parents like to remind me, was the time when I truly learned the value of money.


I am a true product of California schools.   I did my undergraduate work at U.C. Berkeley, and then law school at Santa Clara.

Why did you decide to study media law? 

When I was in law school, there really wasn’t a specialty called “media” law or “communications” law.  Instead, everyone took constitutional law – which covered a wide variety of subjects.  I knew I wanted to be a litigator and I’ve always been interested in constitutional law given its profound effect on our day to day lives, but didn’t get introduced to true media work until I went to work for a large law firm in Seattle that had some of the more preeminent lawyers practicing in that area.  I found myself attracted to this work, and the people.  I began by representing local newspapers and television stations with pre-publication/pre-broadcast reviews and public records issues, and eventually found myself working for large national cable networks, television broadcasters and movie studios.  In fact, since I was admitted in California, I spent the first few years of my practice in Seattle traveling to, and working in, the firm’s Los Angeles office to help establish a media law practice.

What has been your most interesting case?

I’ve been involved in many interesting cases over the years. I represented CNN in a successful challenge to a prior restraint issued by a Florida state court judge prohibiting CNN from airing a tape-recorded conversation with ousted Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega.  I got to draft the petition for certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court in the case, and it was literally the first month of my law career.  We received an in-chambers opinion from U.S. Supreme Court Justice Blackmun overturning the prior restraint in just over one week. I successfully challenged Boise’s anti-nudity ordinance on behalf of a theater group and adult entertainment providers; and more recently, I represented Turner Network Television in thwarting an attempt by a criminal defendant to prohibit the broadcast of TNT’s program “Cold Justice” which featured real-life efforts to solve a 10 year-old murder in Pocatello that resulted in the defendant’s arrest.

What is the biggest legal challenge you foresee for journalists in the next few years?

Being able to hire lawyers with the limited budgets that newsrooms have.  There seems to be less and less people working in newsrooms these days who are being asked to do more and more.  Finding the money to hire lawyers to fight about access to records or courtrooms will be increasingly difficult with the budgets they must work with.

You also sit on the Idaho Supreme Court’s “Fire Brigade.”  What is it and why is it important?

I think it’s an innovative way for the Court to approach issues that may arise when the media covers the judiciary – the hope is that costly litigation can be avoided by informal efforts to educate and reach out to those involved.

What should they have taught journalists in school that they didn’t?

I’m guessing that journalists of my era could never imagine all of the multi-tasking and different platforms that they would be working with in an effort to get the news out.  Flexibility and willingness to try new things seem to be important attributes of today’s working journalists.

Tell us about your family…

I have two amazing sons:  Drew is a sophomore at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma where he is studying computer science; and Trent is a junior at Boise High where he plays basketball.  I’m extraordinarily close to my parents and two sisters and their families who all live in the Bay Area, so I find myself making many trips to California.   I also have an adorable golden retriever named Spud who will be one year old at the end of November.

What do you hope to accomplish on the Idaho Press Club Board?

I’ve been involved with the Press Club for a number of years.  I hope that my participation on the board as its only lawyer adds value to the IPC’s mission and activities.

Tell us one thing about you that would surprise most people…

People may know that I’m a huge Cal fan, but they may not know that I played Division I, Pac-10 volleyball at Cal from 1983-86.  At 5’10” I’m not that tall, but was able to play middle-blocker because I had a 36” vertical jump.  I’m guessing that no one looking at me today would guess that!