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July 27, 2023

ABA Silver Gavel honorees lauded for helping the public understand the law

At the 65th presentation of the Silver Gavel Awards for Media and the Arts on July 25, ABA President Deborah Enix-Ross  applauded honorees for telling “compelling stories in ways that will reverberate for years to come.”

Enix-Ross, along with Lisa Bail, chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Gavel Awards, presented the awards at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., before a live and streamed audience.

The recorded program is available here.

Lisa Bail, Jan Crawford, Adam Verdugo, Nancy Cordes and Deborah Enix-Ross during Silver Gavel Awards reception.

Lisa Bail, Jan Crawford, Adam Verdugo, Nancy Cordes and Deborah Enix-Ross during Silver Gavel Awards reception.

Photo credit: Lisa Helfert

2023 Silver Gavel Award and Honorable Mentions recipients

2023 Silver Gavel Award and Honorable Mentions recipients

Photo credit: Lisa Helfert

The Silver Gavel Awards recognize work in media and the arts that help foster an understanding of American law and the legal system.

“An informed public is essential to democracy and the rule of law,” Bail said.

Enix-Ross congratulated and thanked the award recipients for their desire to take a deeper look at legal issues and present them in a creative format to help the public to understand them.

The Silver Gavel for Television went to “CBS Evening News with Norah O’Donnell” for “Roe v. Wade.”

CBS News Chief White House Correspondent Nancy Cordes, Chief Legal Correspondent Jan Crawford and executive producer Adam Verdugo accepted the award.

“I’m incredibly grateful that you have recognized us with this award,” said Cordes, who has  covered the Supreme Court for 30 years. She said the work the ABA does is “enormously important” because it shows people the impact of the legal system on everyday lives.

“I  believe the work we do is more important now than ever,” she added.

The nine Silver Gavels and five Honorable Mentions went to works that focused on inequality, injustice, forgiveness, redemption, abortion rights, eavesdropping on privileged conversations, affirmative action and modern-day slavery.

Most of the honorees spoke about the need to help the public understand various aspects of the law and their desire to bring untold stories to the forefront.

Author Dolen Perkins-Valdez received a Silver Gavel for Drama and Literature for her book, “Take My Hand,” published by Berkley of Penguin Random House. The story was inspired by true events about two African American sisters  , ages 12 and 14, who were surgically sterilized without their consent in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1973. Thanks to the assistance of the Southern Poverty Law Center, the family filed a lawsuit that exposed a campaign funded by the federal government to sterilize primarily impoverished people. Ultimately, the outcome of the case was the establishment of the requirement of informed consent prior to sterilization procedures.

Perkins-Valdez called Mini Lee and Mary Alice Relf “American heroines.” “They lived to tell the story, they went on with their lives and they are surrounded by family and people who love them.” She said the award also honors “tens of thousands of women who were forcibly sterilized without their consent in this country.”

Perkins-Valdez thanked her readers for inviting her to discuss the book and the topic of bodily autonomy, which includes “not only a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy, but also the right to have a baby if she so chooses.”

On a day that would have been Emmett Till’s 82nd birthday, two Honorable Mentions about Till’s story were awarded.

Also, Enix-Ross shared that President Biden that day had signed into law the establishment of the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument, which includes three protected sites in Illinois and Mississippi. In March 2022, Biden signed into law the Emmett Till Antilynching Act,  making lynching a federal hate crime for the first time in American history.

“All of these actions and those programs honored tonight recognize the need to keep the story of Emmett Till in our public consciousness and collective commitment to learning from our nation’s history,” Enix-Ross said.

The Honorable Mention for Documentaries went to “The Lost Story of Emmett Till,” produced by NBC 5 Chicago, WMAQ-TV, and the Honorable Mention for Drama and Literature was awarded to “Trial in the Delta: The Murder of Emmet Till,” which was an original play from the Collaboraction Theatre Company in Chicago.

For a complete list of the winners and honorable mentions, click here