Justice and the Media: Reconciling Fair Trials and a Free Press

Justice and the Media: Reconciling Fair Trials and a Free Press

Justice and the Media: Reconciling Fair Trials and a Free Press

Justice and the Media: Reconciling Fair Trials and a Free Press


Should be a leading book on the First Amendment and mass media rights. Market will include faculty and grad students in journalism, mass comm, law, telecomm, comm studies, and criminal justice.


The First Amendment right of free speech is a fragile one. Its fragility is found no less in legal opinions than in other, less specialized forms of public discourse. Both its fragility and its sometimes surprising resiliency are reflected in the following pages.

This book attempts to examine how courts treat First Amendment claims made by the press in the context of the criminal justice system. Rather than explore the vast universe of such cases, the book focuses on federal courts, where reported opinions by trial courts are more common than at the state level. The hope is to produce a reasonably accurate--if partial--picture of how intermediate appellate and trial courts use U.S. Supreme Court doctrine to decide First Amendment cases. This picture is then used to evaluate and critique the doctrinal system.

For better or worse, this book is haunted by the specter of the O.J. Simpson trial. Although the Simpson case did not make new law, the trial and its outcome seem to be, at this writing, an inescapable part of how many people think about these issues. The simple truth, however, is that the Simpson case was an anomaly that has little relation to the everyday concerns of media coverage of the criminal justice system. Although the venerable "parade of horribles" can be an effective strategy for the legal advocate, it is not always the ideal way to address larger concerns, particularly when fundamental rights are at stake.

No doubt there will be objections to the following pages. First, to the extent that my preferred resolution of the issues discussed herein favors uninhibited speech, there will be some who maintain that I have devalued other interests to which the rights of the press should yield. I remain convinced, however, that there are always effective alternatives preferable to sacrificing one constitutional right in favor of another. Even to those who disagree with me on this point, I hope the descriptive portions of this work prove worthwhile. Second, my preference for clear rules over more discretionary standards makes me vulnerable to the charge of formalism. To . . .

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