Senior Counsel

David E. Kendall

David Kendall Photo

David Kendall has had a checkered legal career. His acquaintance with the legal process began when he was arrested several times (but convicted only once) in Mississippi during the summer of 1964 while attempting to register voters.

After studying at Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, graduating from Yale Law School, and clerking for Justice Byron R. White, he spent five years as associate counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc., litigating a variety of civil rights cases and defending a large number of death penalty cases. He represented clients at trial, before state supreme courts, in the Supreme Court of the United States, and in state and federal post-conviction proceedings. He argued Coker v. Georgia, 433 U.S. 584 (1977), in which the Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional for rape. He represented Florida Death Row inmate John Spenkelink in extensive appellate and post-conviction proceedings and represented Utah inmate Gary Gilmore's mother in seeking a stay of execution from the Supreme Court. Gilmore v. Utah, 429 U.S. 1012 (1976). He devised a legal challenge to lethal injection. Chaney v. Heckler, 718 F.2d 1174 (D.C. Cir. 1983), rev'd 470 U.S. 821 (1985).

At Williams & Connolly since 1978, and a partner from 1981 to 2014, Mr. Kendall continues his practice as Senior Counsel to the firm. He has litigated a variety of civil and criminal cases at the trial and appellate level and has had jury trials in the District of Columbia, Indiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Alabama, and Minnesota. He has appeared in trial courts in 23 states and has argued appeals in six federal courts of appeal, seven state supreme courts, and the Supreme Court of the United States. David Kendall is highlighted in the 2014 edition of The Legal 500 for his “diverse practice” which “sees him representing clients across the country from Maryland to Minnesota.”

Mr. Kendall has represented a wide variety of criminal defendants who have been charged with such "white collar" offenses as conspiracy, bribery, mail fraud, wire fraud, and obscenity at trial and on appeal. He has represented numerous clients before state and federal grand juries in agency investigations and in corporate internal investigations (many of these representations are, thankfully, unknown to the general public). He represented Bechtel Infrastructure in various criminal and civil investigations relating to the "Big Dig" in Boston.

In civil litigation, he has represented accounting firms in a number of different matters, including Arthur Andersen in the University Savings case in Houston. He has represented McGladrey & Pullen in the A.H. Robins bankruptcy proceedings arising out of the Dalkon Shield litigation, and other matters. He has represented another Big Four accounting firm in proceedings related to the firm's investment and tax strategies. He has represented clients in commercial arbitration, winning for the Baltimore Orioles $10 million and naming rights to the Camden Yards ballpark in 2001.

Mr. Kendall has represented lawyers and law firms in professional liability matters. He represented a number of clients during the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s and early 1990s, including accountants, lawyers, and S&L executives, in civil, criminal, and administrative proceedings. He began representing President and Mrs. Clinton in November 1993, in what was ostensibly a small savings and loan matter involving Whitewater Development Company, Inc. He went on to represent the Clintons in a variety of matters, including Independent Counsel, Senate, House of Representatives, FDIC, RTC, and bar counsel investigations, civil litigation, and the 1998-99 impeachment proceedings, and currently represents them in miscellaneous civil matters.

He has represented a number of individual and corporate media clients over the years, defending libel, privacy invasion, and copyright suits, fighting subpoenas to news gatherers, and prosecuting FOIA actions (arguing Department of State v. Washington Post Co., 456 U.S. 595 (1982) in the Supreme Court). His clients have included The Washington Post, Newsweek, National Enquirer (where he supervised prepublication copy review for over a decade and a half), Playboy, Discovery Communications, U.S. Medicine, National Review, local television stations, and individual writers and journalists. He represented The Post at trial and on appeal in a marathon libel suit brought by the President of Mobil Oil and his son. Tavoulareas v. Washington Post Co. et al., 817 F.2d 762 (D.C. Cir. 1987) (en banc). In a libel suit arising out of the motion picture Missing, he successfully defended its director, Constantin Costa-Gavras, and Universal City Studios, Davis v. Costa-Gavras, 654 F. Supp. 653 (S.D.N.Y. 1987), in a case that established First Amendment protections for "docudramas."

Over the years, Mr. Kendall has advised the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, and several member companies of both organizations on a variety of First Amendment, copyright, and other legal issues at trial, in Congressional and administrative agency investigations, and with respect to proposed legislation. He has represented a number of copyright holders in anti-piracy suits against various Napster-like Internet services, such as Scour, Aimster, Morpheus, KaZaA, and Grokster. He represented the motion picture studios in their 9-0 anti-piracy victory in the Supreme Court, MGM et al. v. Grokster, et al., 545 U.S. 913 (2005). He has also represented content providers in litigation against satellite, cable, and over-the-air copyright piracy. He has represented AOL in a number of Internet matters and has advised various clients on issues arising out of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

He is the author of several articles on constitutional, media, and criminal law and has taught constitutional and media law courses as an Adjunct Professor at Columbia Law School and Georgetown University Law Center. He was a member of the five-person ABA Task Force that drafted the ABA Standards for Criminal Justice: Fair Trial and Free Press released in 1991. He is on the Board of Directors of the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc.




Received top rankings in general commercial litigation (2007-2018) and media and entertainment law (2004-2016) in Chambers USA: America's Leading Lawyers for Business

“500 Leading Litigators in America,” Lawdragon, 2023

Recognized as one of The Best Lawyers in America ® for over 25 years

“Washington, D.C. Bet-The-Company Litigation Lawyer of the Year,” The Best Lawyers in America ®, 2015

“Washington, D.C. First Amendment Lawyer of the Year,” The Best Lawyers in America ®, 2012


Other Government Service

2LT, United States Army, 1972-1973

Commissioner, Maryland Commission on Capital Punishment, 2008

Grievance Committee of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, 2010-2013; Chair 2014-2015

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