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“I feel like Dorothy from Kansas,” says Eve Burton. That may seem like a curious statement coming from a native New Yorker who’s just moved to Atlanta; even odder considering that she’s hardly naive, having spent the last five years fighting legal battles for New York’s Daily News, one of the nation’s more colorful tabloids. But Burton has a point: Since joining Cable News Network last fall as its chief legal counsel, she’s worked on so many high-profile matters that it could seem like she’s landed in Oz. The 42-year-old Burton spearheaded CNN’s petition to the U.S. Supreme Court to televise oral arguments on the recounting of the presidential ballots in Florida. After the high court ruled against the request, she pressed for audio recordings of the proceedings. That the Court released the tapes almost immediately surprised everyone, including Burton. She says CNN supported her, even on the long shots, sparing no expense, although that expense has not yet been tallied. Burton got the CNN job because First Amendment guru Floyd Abrams, of New York’s Cahill Gordon & Reindel, played matchmaker. He recommended her to Louise Sams, general counsel of CNN’s parent, the Turner Broadcasting System, Inc. Then he convinced Burton that CNN was the place to be and that the job was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (Abrams met Burton when she was the Daily News‘s deputy general counsel.) Burton says she was heartened that CNN liked her unorthodox background. “I’m first to admit I’m not for everybody,” she laughs. Although an alumna of two New York firms (Weil, Gotshal & Manges and Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy), she also has an activist background that doesn’t always endear her to law partnerships. Burton has done stints as a refugee relief worker in Thailand, volunteer attorney in Cambodia, and founding member of Legal Aid of Cambodia. These days, she directs her passion to making First Amendment arguments for CNN while heading a nine-lawyer team, and overseeing outside counsel (which include firms such as Seattle-based Davis Wright Tremaine, Los Angeles’ Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker, and Cahill Gordon). Burton has an impressive track record representing businesses that depend on attention-getting journalism — the kind that sparks controversy or that requires legal muscle to get access for its reporters. While at the Daily News, she gained distinction as a thorn in the side of New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Among other victories, she got the administration to turn over investigative reports on corruption in city agencies, obtained an agreement from the police department to respect rights of reporters and photographers during news-gathering, and led a successful effort to open family court to the public after 30 years of closed proceedings. Those kinds of wins made her a media darling: She picked up numerous First Amendment awards, including ones from Washington, D.C.’s National Press Club, the New York chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and the New York Press Club. So how’s this feisty Yankee liking the laid-back Southern life? Actually, she says, her job in Atlanta is more pressured. The broadcast medium is a lot more demanding than print, Burton notes, because the “amount of content going into the pipeline is unbelievable.” At the Daily News, “the deadline was five o’clock, and by nine I knew if there’s a problem.” CNN’s 24-hour operation, reaching 170 million viewers worldwide, is a “beast,” she says, that needs feeding “all the time.” For this New Yorker, Atlanta is the city that never sleeps.

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