Browsing Tag

ABA Journal

It’s Nice Being Acknowledged

I was very honored to win the following awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE):

  • Best Group Profile (Legal Rebels: “No Turning Back”). National (Silver) and Regional (Silver).
  • Best Web Microsite (Legal Rebels). Regional (Silver).
  • Best Case History (State of the Profession: “Slow Going”). Regional (Bronze).
  • Best Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Story (State of the Profession). Regional (Bronze).

I was especially proud to see my section (Business of Law) win a National Bronze and Regional Gold award for Best Regular Print Department. This was our second National Bronze award in a row. Hopefully next year, we’ll get the gold! I’m grateful to my colleagues and reporters for helping make that happen.

And, we won Magazine of the Year (Fewer Than 11 Issues)! The last time we won Magazine of the Year was right after I joined the Journal, so I never really felt like I had been part of it. It’s nice to be a part of this one!

(Legal) Career Killers: R. Kelly and RICO, The Mann Act, Sex Abuse Laws, Child Pornography, Child Sex Trafficking, Forced Labor Laws…

Welcome to (Legal) Career Killers — a series that looks at how the law, lawyers or lawsuits killed a band’s or artist’s careers. In other words: They fought the law and the law won.

Americans love a good comeback story, and until recently, R&B superstar R. Kelly was in the midst of one of the most unlikely yet successful second acts in recent memory.

Accused of filming himself having sex with an underage girl, the hitmaker was acquitted on charges relating to child pornography in 2008. Kelly largely emerged unscathed. The self-proclaimed “King of R&B” subsequently reclaimed his throne, working with A-list singers, touring and receiving multiple Grammy nominations. Although a 2017 investigation published in Buzzfeed accusing the singer, songwriter and producer of holding underage girls captive in a sex cult resulted in some backlash, including streaming services refusing to promote his songs, Kelly kept his record deal, and more important, his freedom. Kelly may not have been able to fly, like he believed in his famous song, but it sure seemed as if he could do almost anything else, including dodge bullets.

But then the documentary Surviving R. Kelly premiered on Lifetime in January 2019. The six-part miniseries investigated the sex cult allegations while revisiting some older accusations against the singer, including those that led to the 2008 trial and his 1994 marriage to protegee Aaliyah, who was then 15 years old. Containing interviews with several former girlfriends, his ex-wife, family members and associates, the documentary succeeded in clipping Kelly’s wings. Days after the premiere, Georgia and Illinois opened criminal investigations and encouraged more victims to come forward. By the next month, Kelly had lost his record deal and been charged by the Cook County state’s attorney in Chicago with sex abuse. In July 2019, he got hit with federal sex abuse charges as well.

“I was so shocked that law enforcement got involved,” Surviving R. Kelly executive producer Tamra Simmons says. “We thought, ‘Maybe the families [of his accusers] could pursue legal action if and when they were reunited with their daughters.’ We knew there were certain laws that he had broken. What we didn’t know was if anyone would do anything about it.”

Victor Li, “Reel Power: Documentaries are shaping public opinion and influencing cases,” ABA Journal, August-September 2020

Turns out, this time there were quite a few members of law enforcement who were willing to do something about it. As such, the only performances R. Kelly has to worry about for the next 20-30 years will be at his federal prison’s talent show — provided they have them.

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(Legal) Career Killers: “Alone Again” by Biz Markie

Welcome to (Legal) Career Killers — a series that looks at how the law, lawyers or lawsuits killed a band’s or artist’s careers. In other words: They fought the law and the law won.

I wrote an ABA Journal cover story in 2019 looking at songs that changed the law. The issue of sampling has become an important one when it comes to copyright law. A major reason why was because of two 1991 cases. I spotlighted the first: a lawsuit filed by members of 60s era band The Turtles against hip hop group De La Soul. I decided to take a look at the second one, which involves the recently deceased rapper Biz Markie.

When the Diabolical Biz Markie died in July 2021, many publications made sure to emphasize that he was more than just a one hit wonder. Widely known for his big personality and sense of humor, the “Clown Prince of Hip Hop” (he once recorded a song about picking his nose called “Pickin’ Boogers” – either that or “Weird Al” Yankovic’s “Gotta Boogie,” is the best song ever written about nose doo-doo) was a highly influential rapper who was beloved in hip hop circles and by his fans.

But the fact remains that most people only knew him by his big hit, 1989’s “Just a Friend.” A major reason why he never had another was because of a lawsuit that helped set a precedent in the then-grey area of sampling.

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It’s Good To Be Bad

My latest feature examines sleazy, incompetent, and ethically-challenged lawyers in pop culture and how they are shaped by, and affect, public perception of the legal profession. This one was a lot of fun to write and report. I had a blast speaking to some of the creative minds behind Liar Liar, L.A. Law and Presumed Innocent.

Plus, we got some good timing, since the issue went to press the same month that Better Call Saul wrapped up its run on AMC. As such, it was a no-brainer to feature Saul Goodman on the cover and throughout the spread. With quotes like “If you’re committed enough, you can make any story work. I once convinced a woman I was Kevin Costner, and it worked, because I believed it!” and scenes like this one where he effortlessly explains money laundering in a way that could be used in law enforcement training videos, he really is the perfect cover-boy for a story about bad lawyers.

Unless you count this guy. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to fit my favorite bad lawyer into the story (it wasn’t for lack of trying, though). Maybe next time…

Winning Time

I was very honored to win the following awards from the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE):

I was especially proud to see my section (Business of Law) win a National Bronze and Regional Silver award for Best Regular Print Department. I’m very grateful to my colleagues and reporters for helping make that happen.

Plus, we won honorable mention for Magazine of the Year (11 or Fewer Issues). Woohoo!

Dun Dun!

Late last month, NBC announced it was reviving the original Law & Order as a prime-time series.

The news came a month after my feature examining the show’s legacy in shaping our understanding of the criminal justice system hit the stands. Surely the folks at NBC and Wolf Entertainment read it and decided they had no choice but to bring it back, right?

So, you’re welcome! Now, if I only can get NBC to bring Ed back.

We Are The Champions!

Very proud to win several Azbee Awards of Excellence from the American Society of Business Publication Editors this year. I think this might have been my biggest haul yet.

Award Season 2020

I’m very proud to see “State of the Profession,” an annual feature I’m in charge of, win the National and Upper Midwest Regional Azbee Awards for Excellence for Data Journalism from the American Society of Business Publication Editors.

And I’m also proud to have been nominated for a Peter Lisagor Award by the Chicago Headline Club for Best Feature Story (Non-Daily Newspaper, Magazine or Newspaper-Magazine) for “Lawyers, songs and money: Music that changed the law.” That piece meant a lot to me, personally, and I was glad to see it get some recognition.

Always My Favorite Part of Techshow

Got my obligatory photo from Phil Brown during the just-completed ABA Techshow. I was quite proud of our coverage of this year’s event. It was a lot of hard work in the midst of some big-time adversity. Thanks to my colleagues for their help!