A Broad View of Access
10 Pages Posted: 12 Sep 2014
Date Written: September 9, 2014
The wave of criminal trials of executives charged with various kinds of accounting fraud and other illegal activities has brought into sharp focus the role that access to the media can play in achieving access to justice. By using the phrase "access to justice," I do not mean to refer only to the problem of getting into the courthouse, which is of tremendous concern to lawyers advocating on behalf of the poor. Instead, I use the phrase to refer to the broader challenge of obtaining access to other levers of power-levers that can enable individuals of moderate or even minimal means to seek redress for wrongs.
This Essay argues that media coverage is perhaps more important than ever for those lacking the means to prosecute a civil lawsuit, let alone to hire superstar lawyers like David Boies, Mary Jo White or Robert G. Morvio. And while media access has become more important, attracting such coverage may have become harder to obtain. Clearly, some can afford more than their share of courtroom time regardless of the merits of their arguments, while others cannot obtain the help they need no matter what.
The discussion proceeds in four parts. First, I briefly explore the role of the media in covering high-profile litigation. Second, I present some of the issues raised in discussions of traditional access to justice, and suggest that access to media organizations can also contribute to achieving a just outcome. Third, I discuss why news organizations may keep some important stories, off-air, off-line and out of print, even though, if suitably covered, the story could promote a more just outcome. Finally, I offer a few thoughts on why the work of news organizations-along with bloggers, podcasters and anyone else with a means to reach large numbers of people may be more important than ever to promote access to justice.
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