First Amendment lawyer John Borger dies at 68 in Minneapolis

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — John Borger, one of the nation's preeminent First Amendment lawyers, has died in Minneapolis. He was 68.

Borger had cancer for 15 years and died Monday night at his home in downtown Minneapolis, his wife, Judith Yates Borger, told The Associated Press.

Borger represented the Star Tribune and other media organizations for four decades before retiring from the Faegre Baker Daniels law firm in 2017, the Star Tribune reported.

Star Tribune senior vice president and general counsel Randy Lebedoff called Borger “a brilliant First Amendment advocate who contributed greatly to our state and country by standing up for freedom of speech when it counted.”

He was also the lead attorney representing the estate of “American Sniper" author Chris Kyle, which was sued for defamation by former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura.

Ventura said Kyle fabricated an incident in his bestselling memoir concerning a fight Kyle claimed the two had in a California bar. Ventura won a $1.8 million verdict in U.S. District Court in Minnesota in 2014, but that ruling was overturned by the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals and settled out of cour t in 2017.

In 2018, Borger became the third lawyer ever to receive the Champion of the First Amendment award, the highest honor from the American Bar Association Forum on Communications Law.

Borger worked on his high school newspaper in Parkersburg, West Virginia, and was on the campus paper at Michigan State University where he met his future wife, a fellow journalist. He graduated with a law degree from Yale Law School in 1976.

Survivors include his wife, a retired reporter at the St. Paul Pioneer Press; three adult children and six grandchildren.

A memorial service is tentatively planned for early January.