Information is a prerequisite of a meaningful democratic society, and the letters FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) are at the heart of Adam Marshall’s work. As the Knight Litigation Attorney at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, Marshall, a 2007 graduate of Durham Academy, is dedicated to protecting the First Amendment freedoms and newsgathering rights of journalists. Forbes magazine named recognized Marshall as one of its “30 Under 30” in media for his work launching an online legal guide for reporters and promoting government transparency.
Q: What have you been up to since graduating from DA?
A: After graduating from Durham Academy, I attended Kalamazoo College in Kalamazoo, Michigan, earning my B.A. and focusing on political science and philosophy. I spent my junior year abroad at the London School of Economics and Political Science, where I also had the opportunity to travel across Europe. I then attended The George Washington University Law School, concentrating on public interest work by volunteering for the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, leading the student ACLU group and working for a variety of civil rights-oriented organizations. I graduated with high honors and as a member of the Order of the Coif in 2014 and earned the President’s Volunteer Service Award.
Q: What are you doing now?
A: I’m an attorney at the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP), a non-profit based in Washington, D.C., dedicated to promoting and enforcing legal rights for journalists across the nation. I primarily litigate federal and state public records cases for reporters and news media organizations on a wide array of subject matters, from lethal execution drugs to travel data and the FBI’s impersonation of journalists. I also assist in RCFP’s amicus work, train journalists and other lawyers, and write about open government issues. Earlier this year, I was honored to be named a “30 Under 30” in media by Forbes for my work on promoting government transparency.
Q: Why do you do what you do?
A: I get up every day to advance, in some small way, what I believe to be a necessary prerequisite for a meaningful democratic society: information. Without an understanding of what our government knows and does (or fails to do), there is little chance for the public to engage in any sort of reasoned political participation. My hope and belief is that cases I work on for journalists become the basis for discussions on the issues of our time taking place in towns, states and across the nation.
Q: What DA experiences influenced you or helped you get where you are today?
A: First and foremost, at Durham Academy I developed the analytic tools I have used throughout my academic and professional career. Although I was only there for four years, by the end of high school I had acquired the skills to read critically, analyze and write, which are the foundation of all learning. DA also encouraged me to expand my horizons and explore my passion for politics, from traveling to D.C. with Mr. Phu to visit embassies in connection with our class on the Middle East, to working on expressive photography projects, to organizing protests and newsletters. Finally, being at DA meant being immersed in a talented and driven group of peers. Though I often found my classmates’ academic prowess terrifying, it motivated me to become a better student and find my own passions to master.
Q: What are your interests away from work?
A: Cooking, debating Constitutional law with my partner, Anne, and doting on our two cats, Sonia (named for the great Supreme Court justice) and Phoebe (named for the Friends character). I also enjoy photography and learning about octopuses.
Q: What’s on the horizon for you?
A: Fighting government secrecy is an unremitting (and perhaps even absurd) task. But I think it will always be a part of my professional life; to call it “work” does not capture its meaning for me. Being an advocate is not just about working with what exists but imagining what is possible, and that process is never complete.