American Bar Association announces 2018 Silver Gavel Awards for media and the arts

The American Bar Association today announced its selections for the 2018 Silver Gavel Awards for Media and the Arts, which recognize outstanding work that fosters the American public’s understanding of law and the legal system. This is the ABA’s highest honor in recognition of this purpose.

The Silver Gavel awarded-work focused on such matters as policing, Japanese American internment during World War II, Thurgood Marshall, Guantánamo, a murder trial, and mortgage-fraud prosecution.
The winners are:

• “Unwarranted: Policing Without Permission,” a book in which author Barry Friedman examines the impact of 21st century law enforcement on contemporary Americans and makes the case for democratic policing—the idea that the people should take responsibility for policing. 

• “And Then They Came for Us,” a documentary that tells the story of the forced incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II that resulted from President Roosevelt’s signing of Executive Order 9066.

• “Marshall,” a feature-film dramatization of the 1941 Bridgeport, Conn., rape trial of African-American chauffeur Joseph Spell, who was defended by the young NAACP Legal Defense Fund lawyer Thurgood Marshall and local attorney Sam Friedman.

• “Death-Penalty Defense at Guantánamo War Court,” a series of Miami Herald newspaper articles by Military Affairs reporter Carol Rosenberg comprehensively covering the “war court” or military commissions established to prosecute detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

• “Breakdown Season 6: A Jury of His Peers,” a radio podcast that takes listeners on a journey inside an Atlanta double murder trial—from investigation to jury selection to the presentations of the parties to verdict—as well as to the jury room and back again.

• ?“Abacus: Small Enough to Jail,” a PBS television documentary about the five-year legal battle of the owners of a New York City Chinatown savings and loan charged with mortgage fraud—the only U.S. bank to be prosecuted following the 2008 financial crisis. 

ABA President Hilarie Bass will present Silver Gavels and honorable mentions on July 17 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Akhil Amar, Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University, is the featured speaker.

The ABA will present six Silver Gavels and four honorable mentions from 166 entries received in all eligible categories, which include books, commentary, documentaries, drama and literature, magazines, multimedia, newspapers, radio and television.

Only one Silver Gavel is presented in each category.

Selection criteria include how the entry addresses the Gavel Awards’ purpose and objectives; educational value of legal information; impact on, or outreach to, the public; thoroughness and accuracy in presentation of issues; creativity and originality in approach to subject matter and effectiveness of presentation; and demonstrated technical skill in the entry’s production.         

“The American Bar Association engages in a careful, deliberative judging process to pick winners of the Silver Gavel Awards,” said Stephen C. Edds, chair of the ABA Standing Committee on Gavel Awards. “We congratulate all of our 2018 awardees for their extraordinary efforts to foster the American public’s understanding of law.”

The association has presented these awards each year since 1958. The 18-member ABA Standing Committee on Gavel Awards makes the final award decisions. To learn more about the Silver Gavel Awards, go to

The following is a complete list of Silver Gavel winners and honorable mentions with a link to their work:


Silver Gavel

“Unwarranted: Policing Without Permission”

Barry Friedman, author

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Honorable Mention

“In Praise of Litigation”

Alexandra Lahav, author

Oxford University Press g=en&



Silver Gavel

“And Then They Came for Us”

Ginzberg Productions

Abby Ginzberg, producer and co-director

Ken Schneider, editor and co-director

Tatsu Aoki, composer

Richard Cahan, associate producer and photo historian

Honorable Mention

“They Call Us Monsters”

BMP Films

Ben Lear, director

Sasha Alpert, producer



Silver Gavel


Michael Koskoff and Jacob Koskoff, writers

Reginald Hudlin, director and producer

Paula Wagner and Jonathan Sanger, producers

Chestnut Ridge Productions and Hudlin Entertainment

Open Road Films and Starlight Media



Silver Gavel

“Death-Penalty Defense Drama at Guantánamo War Court”

Miami Herald

Carol Rosenberg, Military Affairs reporter

Dave Wilson, senior editor

Honorable Mention

“Secrecy Rules”

Star Tribune (Minneapolis, Minn.)

James Shiffer, reporter



Silver Gavel

“Breakdown Season 6: A Jury of His Peers”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Richard Halicks, senior editor

Kevin Riley, editor-in-chief

Bill Rankin, legal affairs writer

Pete Corson, audience specialist

Honorable Mention

“Null and Void”

Radiolab at WNYC

Maria Matasar-Padilla, managing director

Tracie Hunte, reporter

Matt Kielty, producer

Soren Wheeler, managing editor



Silver Gavel

“Abacus: Small Enough to Jail”

PBS Distribution, Frontline, and ITVS

Mitten Media, Motto Pictures and Kartemquin Films Production

Steve James, director

Mark Mitten, producer

Julie Goldman, producer