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May 15, 2019

American Bar Association announces 2019 Silver Gavel Awards for Media and the Arts

WASHINGTON, May 15, 2019 — The American Bar Association today announced its selections for the 2019 Silver Gavel Awards for Media and the Arts, which recognize outstanding work that fosters the American public’s understanding of law and the legal system. This is the ABA’s highest honor in recognition of this purpose. 

The work being recognized focuses on such matters as the 19th Amendment, untested rape kits, cash-advance companies, bad cops and campaign contributions.

The winners are:

  • “The Woman’s Hour, in which author Elaine Weiss tells the dramatic story of the climactic vote in Tennessee in the summer of 1920 to ratify the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing women a national right to vote.
  • “I Am Evidence,an HBO documentary that presents a powerful story – featuring legal advocates and courageous sexual-assault survivors from Detroit, Cleveland, and Los Angeles – about the shameful backlog of untested rape kits, why it matters and what can be done to address this national problem.
  • “Sign Here to Lose Everything, a Bloomberg investigation that exposes how cash-advance companies, relying on an arcane legal document known as a “confession of judgment,” exploited the New York courts to obtain more than 25,000 judgments worth $1.5 billion against borrowers who had unwittingly signed away their due process rights.
  • “Protecting the Shield,a 19-part newspaper series by the Asbury Park Press that exhaustively documents how New Jersey’s fragmented police oversight system regularly allowed known “bad” cops to remain on the job, with tragic human and severe financial consequences. 
  • “Dark Money, a PBS POV television documentary that focuses on the state of Montana to probe the troubling influence of “dark money” – unlimited campaign contributions from undisclosed corporate and individual donors – and to ponder the consequences of these practices for our electoral democracy.  

ABA President Bob Carlson will present Silver Gavels and Honorable Mentions on July 16 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. 

The ABA will present five Silver Gavels and three honorable mentions from 164 entries received in all eligible categories, which include books, commentary, documentaries, drama and literature, magazines, multimedia, newspapers, radio and television.

No more than one Silver Gavel is presented in each category.

Selection criteria include: how the entry addresses the Silver Gavel Awards’ purpose and objectives; educational value of legal information; impact on, or outreach to, the public; thoroughness and accuracy in presentation of issues; creativity and originality in approach to subject matter and effectiveness of presentation; and demonstrated technical skill in the entry’s production.          

“The American Bar Association undertakes a rigorous judging process each year to select winners of the Silver Gavel Awards for Media and the Arts,” said Stephen C. Edds, chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Gavel Awards. “Each of the awardees is truly deserving. We congratulate all of the 2019 awardees for their extraordinary efforts to further the American public’s understanding of law.”

The association has presented these awards each year since 1958. The 18-member ABA Standing Committee on Gavel Awards makes the final award decisions. To learn more about the Silver Gavel Awards, go to

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


Silver Gavel
“The Woman's Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote”
Elaine Weiss, author
Penguin Random House/Viking

Honorable Mention
“The Schoolhouse Gate: Public Education, the Supreme Court, and the Battle for the American Mind”
Justin Driver, author
Penguin Random House/Pantheon Books


Silver Gavel

“I Am Evidence”
Shelved, LLC for HBO Documentary Films
Trish Adlesic, co-director and producer
Mariska Hargitay, producer
Geeta Gandbhir, co-director and supervising editor

Honorable Mention

Magnolia Pictures, Participant Media and CNN Films
Betsy West, director and producer
Julie Cohen, director and producer


Silver Gavel

“Sign Here to Lose Everything”
Zachary Mider, reporter
Zeke Faux, reporter
David Ingold, data analyst
Demetrios Pogkas, data analyst


Silver Gavel

“Protecting the Shield”
Asbury Park Press
Paul D’Ambrosio, investigations director
Andrew Ford, Kala Kachmar, Susanne Cervenka, Alex Gecan, Ken Serrano, staff writers

Honorable Mention

“Denied Justice”
Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minn.)
Brandon Stahl, reporter
Jennifer Bjorhus, reporter
MaryJo Webster, data editor
Renee Jones Schneider, photo journalist


Silver Gavel

“Dark Money”
American Documentary/POV and PBS Distribution
Big Sky Film Productions with Big Mouth Productions and Meerkat Media Collective
Kimberly Reed, director, writer and producer
Katy Chevigny, producer
Jay Arthur Sterrenberg, writer and editor
Justine Nagan and Chris White, 
executive producers, POV

With more than 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at and on Twitter @ABANews.