The American Bar Association Journal has received a torrent of irate messages over its announcement that disgraced former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales would be named 2007 Lawyer of the Year. It has renamed its annual selection to be “Newsmaker of the Year” to try to quell the national riot among lawyers.
Obviously, the naming of Gonzales as Lawyer of the Year smacked of an honor. Many believe that Gonzales should not be a lawyer; yet alone singled out among other lawyers. Indeed, it is still not clear whether Gonzales will be charged for his various alleged crimes from unlawful surveillance to lying under oath.
Nevertheless, one thing should be offered in defense of the ABA Journal (with which I have no connection). Each year it is increasing annoying to see Time Magazine rig its own annual competition to avoid controversial choices. At one time, Time’s Person of the Year was the newsmaker who most shaped the news in the prior 12 months. On a pure news basis, someone like Osama Bin Laden, not Rudy Giuliani, would have been selected. Indeed, when the magazine’s editors had more journalistic courage, they did select villains. Now, it is a pathetic way to pander for sales and is largely devoid of any serious journalistic content.
From a news perspective, Gonzales was the most cited and controversial newsmaker in the law for 2007. The problem is that Lawyer of the Year is the same title used by various legal organizations for awarding individuals based on merit rather than sheet notoriety. As one of Gonzales more vocal critics, I believe he deserves to be singled out — for infamy rather than fame.
For the ABA Journal statement, click here