This 6th annual Jdog Prize saw a turn in the practical blawgosphere, and not a particularly good turn. In fact, I pondered whether the contest was still worthwhile, as the year saw few new criminal defense lawyers starting a blawg, while established blawgs saw fewer posts, some on my sidebar essentially dormant if not dead.
Before deciding to hold the Best Criminal Law Blog Post contest again, I asked my old buddy Bennett whether it was worth it, and he responded strongly that it was, that there were some great posts last year and they were worthy of recognition. He was, of course, right, but that didn’t entirely answer my question.
It would appear that hard-core blogging is playing out. Whether it’s because lawyers have decided that it’s just not worth their time, or that they’ve written all they feel compelled to write, or that they’re just not getting the level of feedback, or interaction, they used to get or want to get, is unclear. As posts get more sporadic, it becomes harder to enjoy the synergy that we once enjoyed.
Unfortunately, as fewer posts from the perspective of criminal defense lawyers are written, readers are left without that point of view. There is no shortage of non-lawyers (or self-serving lawyers) writing insipid posts on the Slates and Gawkers, Voxes and Huff Posts, that make us cringe and make their readers stupider. But they don’t know, or if they do, don’t care. They’re businesses. We’re lawyers. They strive for eyeballs to sell advertising. We strive to illuminate. At least we used to.
But Bennett was right that there are still some great things being written, even if the breadth has diminished. And for those who do the yeoman’s work of illuminating the law for others, even as their brethren slip-slide away, recognition of their excellent efforts remains worthwhile. And so, the Jdog Prize continues this year.
One perennial nominee and 2009 winner, Jeff Gamso, continues to pound out some of the hardest hitting, smartest and deepest posts in the best tradition of criminal defense. 2014 was another banner year for Jeff, and to miss anything he writes is inexcusable.
A few bloggers who, inexplicably, weren’t represented in the nominations demand recognition here. Foremost is Rick Horowitz, whose posts tend to run long in both length and substance, and reflect the frustration below the surface that we all face.
Another is Ex-Cop Law-Student, who uses his experience from his career as a cop to offer the level of insight into police conduct that few of us share. ECLS has become a go-to source for me, as he’s without question an honest-broker, whether he agrees or disagrees, about the right and wrong of police misconduct and abuse.
As for those of you who have paid only rare attention to your blawgs, let your posts dwindle, left the heavy lifting to others, this might be a good time to explain why. You know who you are. I know who you are too. Is the genre dead? Is it not worth the effort? Are things so wonderful that there is nothing left to write? Or did something shiny, like the book the ABA asked you to write, take your focus off the issues we, as criminal defense lawyers, spend our days thinking about?
This year’s winner, however, started his blawg when he was a prosecutor, but was then summarily thrown out on his butt in a regime change and had to face the reality of a forced identity shift. And watching this change over the years has been interesting, to say the least. It often takes a while before the prosecutor mind lets go, and the defense lawyer mind takes over, and that was the case with him. Hanging out at Char Bar didn’t hurt either.
In the winning post for 2014, he reaches an epiphany that his days as prosecutor were behind him, and that he understands what distinguished him as a defense lawyer, that he was now responsible for his own little slice of humanity. Murray learned that clients are human beings, and that, as defense lawyers, we may be the only cogs in the wheels of the system that realize and appreciate that they’re actual human beings.
With that said, the winner of the 2014 Jdog Memorial Best Criminal Law Blog Post is…Murray Newman:
Congratulations, Murray. Your badge for 2014 will be on its way as soon as our official badgemaker, Amy Derby, does it.