Best Criminal Law Blawg Post, 2011

Every few days, the question arises whether there is still enough vitality in the blawgosphere to keep it pumping.  The early days were heady, as the terrain was wide open.  Every subject under the sun was fair game and novel. 

Over time, ennui sets in.  Subjects have been covered, and covered again. Fights have already been fought. Only the self-promoters have no qualm about repeating themselves, lest any potential client not know how deeply they care.  Despite this, the criminal law blawgosphere has defied the trend, and the nominations this year show how intelligence and dedication have prevailed, despite the flooding of the blawgosphere by words and ideas sacrificed to self-aggrandizement.  Having been around here for a while now, few things make me prouder to be a blawger.

The 2011 nominees, as with their predecessors, were a diverse group, but showed how criminal law blawgers are taking the medium in new directions.  In what I’ve already noted as perhaps the  most significant work done by a blawger this year,  Nathan(s) Burney’s tumblr,  The Criminal Lawyer’s Guide to Criminal Law, is a foundational work that I fully expect to see bound and distributed to every student in America. While certainly worthy, this award is for a blawg post, and Nathan(s) work is on to bigger, better things.

In a threepart  series of posts, almost-lawyer Radley Balko did an exceptional job of debunking common, and self-defeating myths about criminal law.  To appreciate the importance of these posts, it is impossible to go to most non-lawyer blogs or boards where, to this moment, you won’t see these myths resurrected and spread like a thought-cancer.  But the best, and worst, aspect of Radley’s series is that it ran in Huffington Post, where Radley is the agitator in residence.  It’s thus seen by a far broader and larger audience than one finds in the blawgosphere, but Huff Post will never be mistaken for a blawg.

Finding humor in criminal law is easy, particularly of the gallows sort.  But putting it in writing, and doing it over and over, is brutally difficult.  It’s been tried by others as to the law in general, and tends to burn brightly until it flames out.  This year, anon PD  Appellate Squawk has taken no prisoners while allowing us to laugh at the nightmares we experience every day. Given the pervasive pain and suffering that comes of criminal law on its best day, we most assuredly need Squawk to keep up the effort to give us a laugh where we would otherwise cry.

One of the more obscure posts that was nominated was the exceptional and honest recap of young lawyer Marcus Schantz, detailing the travails of his defense of a cop shooting, ending in an acquittal.  It’s not merely an incredibly moving account of his experience, but one in which no criminal defense lawyer can’t share the feelings along the way.  This post was clearly a contender by content, but sadly was the last post of his nominal blawg, which has gone silent since September.  Hopefully, 2012 will see Marcus take up keyboard and resurrect his blawg.

There were two incredibly moving posts, one by  Mirriam Seddiq and another by Mr. Emotional, Brian Tannebaum, that brought poignancy to the year’s travails, forcing us to confront our inability to make meaningful headway in efforts to end the violence and harm done in the name of Order.  Eric Mayer wrote his letter to the police, one that most of us wish one of our brothers in blue would read.  But they won’t.

This year also saw a first, the nomination of one of  GW Lawprof Orin Kerr’s posts about computer crime. No lawprof post has ever been nominated before, and that’s a shame.  Even though they tend not to follow the sensibilities of criminal defense lawyers, Orin’s work is both excellent and incredibly informative, if occasionally infuriating. We need to remind ourselves not to stay in the echo chamber, read and consider only those writings that confirm our ideas. Without question, Orin provides some of the most well considered and fascinating writing on cutting-edge criminal law issues in the blawgosphere, and should not be missed.

It likely comes as no surprise that some of the hardest hitting work was done by Ken at Popehat, who not only deconstructed a scam investigation, but took on a great many unpleasant battles this year, including the  violation of Amy Alkon at the hand of TSA Agent Thedala McGee.  But as Turk noted in the nominations, the raw emotion of  Amy’s own post spoke for itself.

As the nominations showed, the scope, breadth and depth of the content of the criminal law blawgosphere reflected its vitality and commitment to making people smarter, better, for having spent some time here.  Not every blog can say that, and some, particularly in other areas of practice, are consumed with smarmy self-promotion or mind-numbingly stupid content that assure that readers will leave worse than they arrived.  Somehow, the criminal law blawgosphere remains blessed, refusing to succumb to the worst nature of the internet.

It was a severe struggle to come up with this year’s winner. Not only was the competition so fierce, but the nature of the content so diverse.  It’s like comparing apples and Fords.  And yet, one blawg post ultimately stood out for its overarching significance and profundity to the blawgosphere, to criminal law, and to lawyers. 

The greatest reluctance comes from the fact that this blawger is someone with whom I’ve gone for the ride over the past five years, and whose contributions to the blawgosphere are almost too large, too great, to capture in any particular post. it’s like telling Fred Astaire that he’s a pretty decent hoofer.  And yet, this year’s award for Best Criminal Law Blawg Post goes to Mark Bennett for his post:
Schadenfreude, Irony, and The Defense Function

Mark doesn’t need another award to recognize his exceptional quality and vast contribution to the blawgosphere, particularly from the likes of me, but I hope he will accept this with my deep appreciation.

13 thoughts on “Best Criminal Law Blawg Post, 2011

  1. Alex Bunin

    Congrats to Mark. It was a great post. Ironically, I suggested both Mark and Murray Newman warranted consideration, and Mark’s post disagrees with Murray on the subject of the irony in question. I like, but regularly disagree with Murray, also. However, I was most glad that my vote, Appellate Squawk, got honorable mention.

  2. SHG

    I like Murray very much, but sometimes the best ideas grow from disputes and benefit from the scrutiny. Both Murray and Mark are tough enough, and smart enough, to be able to disagree, hash it out, and still respect each other.  And Squawk is doing a great job.

  3. Nathans

    Outstanding winning post, and one I might not have seen otherwise. Kudos to Mark and also to you for highlighting it. (and you totally made me blush, btw)

  4. Appellate Squawk

    Omigod, omigod, we’re so thrilled! Thanks to Scott for the honorable mention and to Alex Bunin for not only the nomination, but for inflicting us on appellate judges! Someday a NY judge may even read one of our briefs!

  5. SHG

    Just so you know, Dennis Murphy is a very big fan of yours as well.  From what I hear, a few judges enjoy your posts as well. That doesn’t mean they’ll read your briefs, but you have to take what you can get.

  6. Murray Newman

    Sigh. Always a bridesmaid. Never a bride.

    Wait, I wasn’t even a bridesmaid? What the hell? Oh well, I’m too busy getting ready to be a groom for the third time to get too upset.

    Congrats to Mark!

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