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Freedom Forum gets a new boss

June 8, 2011

The Freedom Forum announced today that it has a new president and chief executive officer.

James C. Duff, the chief administrative officer for the U.S. court system, will replace Charles L. Overby, who is retiring.

Here is the official announcement released today by the Freedom Forum, which operates the Newseum in Washington, DC.

The Freedom Forum, which operates the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue and is one of the nation’s leading foundations dedicated to the First Amendment and media issues, today named James C. Duff as its next president and chief executive officer.

Duff, 57, is the chief administrative officer of the U. S. court system. Since his appointment in 2006 by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., he has overseen the federal judiciary’s 35,000 employees and its $7 billion annual budget. He has also served as secretary to the Judicial Conference of the United States, the courts’ governing body.

Following a nationwide search, Duff’s appointment was announced by Malcolm Kirschenbaum, chair of the Freedom Forum Executive and Finance Committee.

“Jim Duff has worked closely with three chief justices over a period of 35 years and has taught civil liberties and constitutional law at Georgetown University for 10 years,” said Kirschenbaum, a longtime Florida lawyer, banker and civic leader. “He is a passionate defender of the five freedoms that the First Amendment protects. We are confident the Freedom Forum will reach new heights under his leadership.”

Duff will join the Freedom Forum this summer.

“The Freedom Forum and the Newseum perform a great public service,” Duff said. “They educate the public about the Constitution and our precious First Amendment rights. Both organizations have flourished under the stewardship of their founder and top executives, and it is a privilege to be entrusted to lead these organizations into the future.”

Duff will succeed Charles L. Overby, who will turn 65 in September, after a long and distinguished career at the Freedom Forum and the Newseum, the highly successful museum of news, history and technology.

Overby, a Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, has served as chief executive of the Freedom Forum and its predecessor foundation since 1989.

“Jim Duff is a proven leader who will take the work of the Freedom Forum to a significantly higher level,” Overby said. “His involvement with the foundation dates back to 2000. He understands our First Amendment mission thoroughly. His fresh perspective will keep the programs of the Freedom Forum and the Newseum relevant and compelling.”

The nationwide search was led by Peter S. Prichard, retired president of the Newseum and Freedom Forum, and by the search firm Isaacson, Miller of Boston. John Isaacson and Rachel Ellenport led IM’s efforts.

“Our pool of candidates was exceptionally well-qualified,” Prichard said. “We considered nationally known journalists, journalism school deans, university presidents, law school deans, business leaders and prominent lawyers. We’re especially grateful that we were able to attract and to hire Jim, who is among the best of the best.”

Al Neuharth, who founded the Freedom Forum in 1991, said he is confident Duff will lead the organization in the tradition of excellence established by Overby and Prichard.

Duff serves on the board of directors of the Federal Judicial Center, is former chair of the Supreme Court Fellows Commission and a board member of the Supreme Court Historical Society. He has been an adjunct faculty member in constitutional law at Georgetown University for 10 years, most recently teaching civil liberties to undergraduates.

Before he became chief administrator of the U.S. courts, Duff was managing partner of the Washington office of the law firm of Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz. The firm’s Washington office was founded by Howard Baker Jr., former majority leader of the U.S. Senate.

While at the Baker firm Duff served as counsel and secretary to the Freedom Forum and its related entities, the Newseum, First Amendment Center and Diversity Institute. He also was appointed by the NCAA to review its procedures and to provide recommendations.

Also at the Baker firm, Duff represented the University of Kentucky’s federal interests. As an undergraduate at Kentucky, he was a walk-on member of the basketball team. He graduated from Kentucky in 1975 with a B.A. degree magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, and High Distinction in its Honors Program. He earned his J.D. degree at Georgetown University Law Center in 1981 and also attended the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

From 1996 to 2000, Duff served as counselor/administrative assistant to Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and was his liaison with Congress, the executive branch, and various state and federal organizations involved with the administration of justice. He also served as counsel to the chief justice in his role as presiding officer of the presidential impeachment trial in 1999 and assisted Chief Justice Rehnquist in his duties as chancellor of the Smithsonian Institution.

Earlier in his career, Duff was a partner at Clifford & Warnke, where he worked for 12 years until the firm merged in part with Howrey & Simon, where he was a litigation partner for five years. He also worked in Chief Justice Warren E. Burger’s chambers for four years while attending Georgetown Law.

Duff also served as the first chair of the Arts & Sciences Advisory Board at the University of Kentucky and on the university’s alumni board. Duff is married to Kathleen Gallagher-Duff, a lawyer at Covington & Burling. They have three children.

The Freedom Forum is an independent, non-partisan foundation that champions the First Amendment as a cornerstone of democracy. It is the principal funder of the Newseum in Washington, D.C., the First Amendment Center and the Diversity Institute, which are housed in the John Seigenthaler Center in Nashville, Tennessee. The First Amendment Center also has offices in Washington. The Diversity Institute has offices and programs at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion.

The Freedom Forum was established in 1991 under the direction of Al Neuharth as successor to a foundation started in 1935 by newspaper publisher Frank E. Gannett. The Freedom Forum is not affiliated with Gannett Co., Inc. Its work is supported by income from an endowment of diversified assets.


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