Stroock Hosts Forum on Impact of Media on Justice
New York, December 6, 2016 – Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP hosted a Government Leadership forum today on whether and how news impacts justice, with guests Judge Shira A. Scheindlin (Ret.), of counsel at Stroock; Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein, Senior Judge, United States District Court for the Southern District of New York; Justice John M. Leventhal, Associate Justice, Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York Second Judicial Department; and New York Times reporter William K. Rashbaum.
Robert Abrams, former New York State Attorney General and chair of Stroock’s Government Relations Practice Group, and Stroock of counsel Joel Cohen, a former New York State prosecutor and federal prosecutor with the U.S. Justice Department’s Organized Crime & Racketeering Section, presided at the program.
“Given modern technology such as twitter and iPhones as well as today’s 24-hour news cycle, some might argue that justice – in both civil and criminal cases – is under siege by news, editorial and internet coverage,” said Cohen.
Said Abrams, “Today’s panel illuminated the challenges of presiding over and covering consequential issues while balancing two constitutional rights: freedom of the press and the right to a fair trial.”
The panelists concurred that an overwhelming majority of people bring an open mind and a commitment to civic duty to jury service.
“I expect jurors to tell the truth. I look them in the eye, repeat instructions, and I think people act in good faith. I have to trust in human nature,” said Scheindlin. As an extension of that good faith notion, she said she believed Supreme Court and other appellate cases should be televised.
Hellerstein said the courtroom affords parity among those who serve. “There is equality among jurors if they confine the information they consider to what goes on in the courtroom.” He added that it is up to judges to create the aura to do justice. “Everything you do in a trial has consequences. You want people to rise to a higher level,” he said.
When asked whether a reporter or news organization has the right to reveal potentially damaging information not yet heard in a courtroom, Rashbaum replied, “It is not the responsibility of media to censor news, if the information has been properly vetted. It is not our job to protect one side or another.”
On the topic of jury service, Leventhal provided a strong context. “If members of the National Guard can take a year out of their lives to serve in Afghanistan, jurors can give a week. Especially, he noted, since juries are no longer sequestered in New York State it is less of a hardship in that respect.
Judge Scheindlin is a member of Stroock’s Litigation Practice Group and serves as an arbitrator/mediator under the auspices of JAMS. During her 22-year tenure with the SDNY, Judge Scheindlin presided over many important cases. Her opinions in electronic case management are recognized as case law landmarks, and she is the co-author of the first casebook on electronic discovery.
Judge Hellerstein has served on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York since 1998. He presided over all the 9/11 litigation, some 13,000 cases, coordinated in four master calendars and other consolidations. Prior to joining the bench, he practiced at Stroock for 38 years and was co-head of the firm’s Litigation Practice Group.
Justice Leventhal presided over the nation’s first felony Domestic Violence Court, which has been observed by jurists and court administrators in the U.S. and abroad. He presided over a guardianship part for alleged incapacitated persons, which required the supervision of the management of assets, medical malpractice and personal injury awards as well as other economic issues concerning incapacitated individuals.
Rashbaum is a senior writer on the metropolitan staff of the New York Times, focusing on political and municipal corruption, the courts, terrorism and broader law enforcement topics. He has spent three decades writing about crime in New York, the city’s police department and the mob, and was a member of a team of Times reporters that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2009.
Today’s event was the latest in a series of Government Leadership forums hosted by Stroock. Stroock’s Government Relations Practice, led by Abrams, is comprised of former prosecutors, judges, and government agency officials. Abrams also served as President of the National Association of Attorneys General, Executive Chair of New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s Transition Committee and Honorary Co-Chair of Attorney General Schneiderman’s Transition Committee.
Stroock & Stroock & Lavan LLP is a law firm providing transactional, regulatory, and litigation assistance and guidance to candidates, leading financial institutions, multinational corporations, investment funds and entrepreneurs in the U.S. and abroad. With a rich history dating back 140 years, the firm has offices in New York, Washington, DC, Los Angeles and Miami. For more, visit www.stroock.com.