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Media and the Law:

Adjusting Trial Strategy in Light of Media Portrayal and Public Perception

On March 30, 2012, the St. Thomas Law Review and the Daily Business Review hosted a symposium titled, Media and the Law: Adjusting Trial Strategy in Light of Media Portrayal and Public Perception.  The symposium focused on how judges, litigants, and members of the media face an increasing number of challenges regarding public influence and potential jury misconduct as technology advances.

The luncheon featured keynote speaker Charles Nesson, Weld Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and founder and faculty director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society.  Professor Nesson has litigated high profile cases such as White v. Crook, Anderson v. Cryovac, and Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, a United States Supreme Court case.  He defended Daniel Ellsberg in the 1971 Pentagon Papers case, and he represented Joel Tenenbaum in a well-publicized music file sharing case, Sony BMG v. Tenenbaum.

The symposium also consisted of three panels and was moderated by Benedict P. Kuehne of the Law Offices of Benedict P. Kuehne, P.A.  Each panel comprised of three to four members of the legal profession who have faced challenges in their handling of high-profile cases as a result of media coverage and exposure, and members of the media who inform the public of such cases.

The media panel included three members of the media: David Lyons, editor-in-chief of the Daily Business Review; Manny Garcia, executive editor of El Nuevo Herald; Willard Shepard, an anchor and journalist with NBC 6.  These panelists provided keen insight into their experiences reporting high profile cases.  Their discussion covered the ethical dilemmas the media faces to appeal to public interest while protecting the sanctity of our judicial system and the responsibility of the media in balancing these interests.

The litigants panel consisted of three attorneys: Carey Haughwout, a Palm Beach public defender; Ervin Gonzalez, an attorney at Colson Hicks Edison; and Abraham Laeser, a retired prosecutor from the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office.  These panelists discussed their experiences in handling high-profile cases, and the effect of media coverage on how they approach the case.  The panelists also provided their perspectives on attorneys’ ethical obligations when communicating with the press.

Finally, the ethics panel featured Florida Supreme Court Justice R. Fred Lewis; Chief Magistrate for the Southern District of Florida, Judge Stephen Brown; and Professor at the University of Miami School of Law, Anthony Alfieri.  These panelists explored ethical issues and dilemmas litigants and judges face in an era when the public has a seemingly insatiable appetite for information about high profile legal cases and cutting edge legal issues.

Additionally, the symposium hosted Judge George Greer, who received national attention when he presided over the Terri Schiavo case.  Judge Greer’s session, “A Conversation with Judge Greer,” was moderated by Tamara Lawson, a professor at St. Thomas University School of Law.

If you would like any more information regarding this event, please email lawrev@stu.edu.