This marks the 7th year of the Best Criminal Law Blawg Post, and there was a very serious question of whether the crim law blawgosphere would have the legs to make it this far. So many of the blawgs that existed when the contest began have since gone dormant that it seemed, at the time, that there would be little left from which to choose.
As it turns out, there is not only life remaining in the criminal law blawgosphere, but some damn fine writing out there, as reflected in the nominations (as well as some truly excellent criminal law blogs that, inexplicably, didn’t muster a nomination but are still doing great work).
The nominations reflect the diversity and depth of thought that exist in the criminal law blawgosphere. Unlike the shallow, often trivial and almost invariably wrong content proffered by mainstream web media, lawyers are providing actual and accurate insight rather than pandering to the bias and ignorance of the public. It’s good to know there is still hope for the public to be able to find substantive information, even as most of the web does whatever it has to do to make a buck off clicks at the expense of sound information.
This is why the Jdog Prize exists, as a small token of appreciation for the lawyers who labor to provide excellence in criminal law insight in a web that may not really appreciate content demanding thought.
There were a number of posts that made the decision this year extremely challenging. Ken White’s post, Rights Are Bundles, Not A La Carte, was a magnificent explanation of how the trend toward picking constitutional rights as if they were on a Chinese food menu will undermine all rights, leaving us at the mercy of those who deprive of us of any rights by playing pick-up stix with our freedoms.
Then there were some posts by Greg Prickett that really struck a chord. In particular, Driving to the Sound of Gunfire, a post that many of us (myself included) may find hard to embrace, but provides us with much needed understanding of how police perceive their role in the system. Much as the moments of bravery don’t make the moment of brutality and cowardice any less wrong, Greg reminds of us that there are cops who drive toward the gunfire rather than run away. It’s easy to conceive of the police as one-dimensional cartoon villains, but Greg forces us to remember that cops are humans, with strengths and weaknesses, like the rest of us.
And then there is Jeff Gamso, whose posts invariably cut to the core of this sick and twisted system we endure. Jeff’s posts not only strike at the heart of our perverse world of logic and the Law of Rule, but remind us that we’re just the janitors cleaning up the mess that society leaves behind. It seems as if every post Jeff writes could admirably win this award.
Notably, Ken’s, Greg’s and Jeff’s posts appear at Fault Lines (as well as elsewhere), which presents both a source of pride and awkwardness for me. Some have questioned what the hell I’m doing with FL, as SJ remains my ongoing soapbox and yet there I am, writing for, and managing, my “competition” and my baby. What’s that all about?
Well, this is what it’s all about, keeping the criminal law blawgosphere alive and thriving, with new writers, with exceptional content, with a new hybrid form of media that incorporates the best of the old blawgosphere with what I hope will be a foundational place for lawyers to bring all perspectives of criminal law in illuminating content. It’s not that SJ is going anywhere, but that it has to be much more than SJ and it must be sustainable.
If blawgs peter out, if blawgers burn out, if lawyers get tired of the fabulous wealth and prestige of blawging, then we’re left with nothing but the stupidity promoted by the big web media, where clueless people write vapid posts that make people stupider. It pains me to think of such a future, and I am trying to do what I can to keep thought alive.
So is it fair that writers with whom I’m associated are included in the Jdog Prize? You bet it is. They get no free pass from me on what they write, and no contributor at FL will say that I can’t be as tough on them as I am on anyone else. They are only as good as their last post, and if their post doesn’t pass muster, they hear it. Yes, it’s awkward to ask a father to decide which of his babies he loves the most, but I won’t hesitate to challenge the FL writers should they slack off or mail it in. That won’t happen on my watch.
Which brings me to the winner of this year’s Jdog Memorial Prize for Best Criminal Law Blawg post. It was an odd post, one that few would write, because it was almost designed to cause other criminal defense lawyers to hate him for writing it. Not just any criminal defense lawyers, but people with whom he served. Sure, there were others who applauded his fortitude in calling out his own, who saw it not as a condemnation of fellow lawyers, but of a system that sacrificed the rights of defendants in the course of the ordinary routine of the grinding gears of the system.
The writer of the winning post is still new to the blawgosphere, but has proven his mettle. Ironically, he probably went through more grief to get his chance to write at FL than anyone else, all because of some mean curmudgeon who wouldn’t let him come aboard until he demonstrated that he had the chops to write. And he did so. In spades.
The 2015 Jdog Memorial Prize winning post is by Ken Womble:
Congratulations, Ken. You passed the test. This badge is for you.