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Media and arts recognized at 2014 ABA Silver Gavel Awards presentation


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Media and arts recognized at 2014 ABA Silver Gavel Awards presentation

By John Glynn

The 57th presentation of the American Bar Association Silver Gavel Awards for Media and the Arts on July 22 honored professionals whose subject matter explored complex legal topics such as the court conditions at Guantanamo Bay, the treatment of inmates with mental illness, public defenders, sexual assault in the military and the laws surrounding Native American adoptions.

ABA President James R. Silkenat (center) is surrounded by recipients of the ABA Silver Gavel Award for Media and the Arts.

Conferred at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., the Silver Gavel Awards recognizes outstanding work that fosters the American public’s understanding of law and the legal system.

The 2014 recipients are:

“The Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantanamo Bay,” a book by Jess Bravin, Supreme Court correspondent for the Wall Street Journal;

“An American Gulag,” commentary by Andrew Cohen, writer for The Atlantic;

“Gideon’s Army” a documentary by Trilogy Films;

“Twice Betrayed,” a newspaper series by Karisa King and Sig Christenson, reporters at the San Antonio Express-News;

“Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl,” a radio program by Jad Abumrad, Robert Krulwich and Tim Howard;

“The Invisible War,” a television documentary by Chain Camera Pictures.

“The Silver Gavel Awards are one of our association’s most cherished and important annual traditions,” said ABA President James R. Silkenat, who congratulated the winners for their in-depth work in enhancing the understanding of legal issues.

Silkenat added that the award’s rich history includes recipients such as Sidney Lumet’s 1958 classic jury room drama, “12 Angry Men”, from United Artists; a 1964 book by Herbert Mitgang, “The Man Who Road the Tiger: The Life and Times of Judge Samuel Seabury,” and the 2004 documentary, “Watergate Plus 30: Shadow of History,” by Sherry Jones for PBS Television.Award-winning author and lawyer Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor and legal correspondent for Slate, was the featured speaker at the program.

Dahlia Lithwick

Lithwick shared the importance of legal journalism and said the Silver Gavel recipients “shined a light into the dark corners” of our justice system.

She commended the ABA for having a place where legal journalists can be commended for their hard work, which sometimes takes years to produce.

Said Lithwick: “If you think about all of the pressures that exist in the media; shrinking legal press corps, shrinking legal press resources, shrinking readers attention spans, shrinking budgets; with all that contraction in the industry, it’s so heartening to see the kinds of work we saw celebrated tonight.”

Lithwick added that it is difficult to blend the, “mechanical and cold side” of the legal system” with the “urgent and real life story” of people who matter.

 “The paradox is rendering invisible people visible and rendering an invisible system comprehensible,” she said.”

Award recipients expressed their appreciation for their honors. Sig Christenson of the San Antonio Express-News said he was humbled. His paper’s investigation of sexual assault in the military started as one story and grew.

“It’s the biggest single problem in the military and they don’t know yet how to correct it,” Christenson said. “I hope the system will change and people get the help they really need.”

The association has presented these awards annually since 1958. The 18-member Standing Committee l Public Education, chaired by Cory M. Amron of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease in Washington, D.C., makes final award decisions.

The ABA Silver Gavel Awards program is organized by the ABA Division for Public Education. Additional information about the 2014 awards can be found here.

The following is a complete list of recipients and honorable mentions with a link to their work:


The Terror Courts: Rough Justice at Guantanamo Bay
Jess Bravin, author
Yale University Press

Honorable Mention
A Wild Justice: The Death and Resurrection of Capital Punishment in America
Evan J. Mandery, author
W.W. Norton & Company Inc.

An American Gulag
The Atlantic
Andrew Cohen, writer
Jennie Rothenberg Gritz and Heather Horn, editors

Gideon’s Army
Trilogy Films
Dawn Porter, director/producer
Julie Goldman, producer
Matthew Hamachek, editor

Twice Betrayed
San Antonio (Texas) Express-News
David Sheppard, projects editor
Karisa King and Sig Christenson, reporters
Lisa Krantz, photographer
Jose Luis Rios, director of photography

Honorable Mention
Reinvestigating Rape: Old Evidence, New Answers
The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)
Debra Adams Simmons, editor
Rachel Dissell and Leila Atassi, reporters

Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl
Jad Abumrad, host/editor
Robert Krulwich, host
Tim Howard, producer

The Invisible War
Chain Camera Pictures
Kirby Dick, director
Tanner Barklow and Amy Ziering, producers

Honorable Mention
Constitution USA with Peter Sagal
Twin Cities Public Television
Stephen Ives, director
Amanda Pollak, producer
Catherine Allan, executive producer
Jaime Bernanke, co-writer
Peter Sagal, host
Gerry Richman, executive in charge of production