Conference to explore the legal and ethical issues of high-profile cases

September 18, 2007Duke Law News

Sept. 6, 2007 -- An interdisciplinary conference at Duke Law School on Sept. 28-29, 2007, will explore legal and ethical issues common to high-profile cases. Attorneys, journalists, bloggers, academics, and a host of experts will examine the issues common to such cases, including First Amendment rights, ethical rules governing lawyers and journalists, the desirability of public access to court proceedings, and the needs of institutions and individuals to protect their reputations in the face of intense public and media scrutiny.

While the recent “Duke lacrosse” case offers a prime example of how certain core elements – race, gender, and athletics – can come together to lead to intense media and public scrutiny and speculation, it is part of an increasingly frequent phenomenon, observes David F. Levi, dean of Duke Law School.

"High-profile cases tax the legal system at the very moment when the public's confidence and understanding might be enhanced,” says Levi. “All of these cases raise fundamental questions about the proper balance between the rights of the individual and the public, and about appropriate conduct by members of the bench, bar, and media in response to intense public interest."

Conference panels will explore how cases land in the media spotlight and the professional and ethical roles and responsibilities of those involved to ensure a fair hearing for the individuals at the heart of the case. Each panel will highlight the perspectives of specific participants in high-profile cases, such as print and broadcast journalists, members of the "new media," prosecutors, defense counsel, and judges. Panelists include Judge Reggie Walton, who presided over the Scooter Libby trial, and Harold Haddon, who defended Kobe Bryant against charges of sexual assault.

“The Court of Public Opinion: The Practice and Ethics of Trying Cases in the Media” is sponsored by a generous grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

For a conference agenda and to register, visit the conference Web site. Members of the Duke University community and the public are welcome to attend individual panel discussions free of charge. All panels will take place in room 3041 at Duke Law School, located at the corner of Towerview Road and Science Drive on Duke’s West Campus. Conference proceedings will also be webcast at

For more information, contact Frances Presma at (919) 613-7248 or