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2022 Up & Coming Attorneys: J. Matt Thornton

Dan Heilman//September 17, 2022//

J. Matt Thornton

J. Matt Thornton

2022 Up & Coming Attorneys: J. Matt Thornton

Dan Heilman//September 17, 2022//

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Ballard Spahr LLP Armed with a master’s degree in economics, Matt Thornton saw a career in finance in his future. But he soon started having second thoughts.

“It occurred to me that my impact as an economist would be limited,” he said.

That pivot was good luck for Ballard Spahr LLP. Thornton transferred his skills into an understanding of myriad business and commercial litigation matters. He started at the firm’s Denver office in 2015, focusing on commercial litigation in both federal and state courts. In that role, he worked on individual actions and class action defense, privacy and cybersecurity matters, product liability and mass tort.

He later gained experience litigating media and entertainment disputes — including defending defamation and privacy-related claims, obtaining access to government records, and safeguarding First Amendment rights.

“I worked with media and entertainment lawyers who often helped reporters with FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests,” Thornton recalled. “It was gratifying to help clients gain access to government records that they’re entitled to.”

That’s a lot for only seven years in practice. Which brings us to the present: Earlier this year, Thornton joined partner Leita Walker and the ACLU of Minnesota in representing the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information in a suit against the city of Minneapolis and its police department.

The suit alleged that the police improperly classified disciplinary records as “coaching,” in an effort to subvert the state’s Government Data Practices Act and withhold records from the public. The case — still ongoing — is particularly significant in light of calls for increased transparency around police misconduct after the murder of George Floyd.

“Over time, I’ve learned a lot about the importance of getting complete and accurate data from the government,” said Thornton. “It isn’t always easy, but it has to happen.”

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