Someday A Legal Blog Will Win A Pulitzer Prize

Pulitzer Medal.jpgAs Professor Pasquale notes over at the Concurring Opinions blog, the award of a Pulitzer prize to the ProPublica website for its series of stories on Wall Street corruption marked a historical first: the first time the Pulitzer committee ever awarded a Pulitzer for stories that never appeared in print. The ProPublica series, “The Wall Street Money Machine” ran exclusively on ProPublica’s website. Even if you had wanted to, you couldn’t have bought a copy of the ProPublica articles at your local newsstand.
The ProPublica Pulitzer (say that ten times fast) made me realize that someday a legal blog will win a Pulitzer for journalism. Probably not next year, probably not this decade, but sometime in our lifetimes I think there’s a good chance that a legal blogger will win a Pulitzer for his or her legal reportage.
It’s sort of a fun exercise to imagine what that blogger will be like. Legal bloggers tend to fall into three camps: there are the practicing lawyers (e.g., New York attorneys Eric Turkewitz and Scott Greenfield), the legal academics (e.g., Bernabe, Althouse, Volokh), and the professional news media (e.g., The Wall Street Journal‘s Law Blog, Gawker Media’s Above the Law).
What category of legal blogger is the likeliest to win legal blogging’s first Pulitzer? Obviously, the professional media outlets like WSJ’s Law Blog and Above the Law have the most resources. And those resources are important to doing the kind of investigative digging that one could see earning a legal blogger a Pulitzer.
One of the most important resources that the bloggers at professional media sites have is time. As Eric Turkewitz pointed out in his most recent post, it’s hard to find time to blog, “when you also have to do work for actual clients.” But I see practicing attorneys who blog as having one major Pulitzer advantage over the professional news reporters: we’re a lot closer to the ground, we’re the first to pick up on legal trends, the first to learn of new species of courtroom injustices. For example, we’ve all read about the foreclosure mills grinding out foreclosures based on sham affidavits generated by mortgage company “robosigners.” Who were the first to learn of these foreclosure problems? Practicing real estate lawyers. You could imagine a (busy) but informed foreclosure lawyer blogging the phenomenon with a perspective that only a lawyer who handled dozens of these cases would have. (Unfortunately, I haven’t come across any such blog and Rolling Stone‘s Matt Taibbi scooped the lawyers on a day-in-the-life of foreclosure practice).
Legal academics also have a chance at bagging legal blogging’s first Pulitzer. For example, The Volokh Conspiracy‘s Randy Barnett has formulated an argument against the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act that has gained a lot of attention, including this recent Boston Globe profile of him. His argument has been set out in a series of blog posts.
Barnett’s constitutional theorizing is the sort of esoteric musings that would never get published in a traditional newspaper’s op-ed page but that can find a receptive and influential audience in the legal blogosphere. I don’t agree with Barnett’s conclusions and don’t think his work will convince the Supreme Court to strike down President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, but if someday some Barnett-like law professor managed, through a series of blog posts, to formulate a novel argument that persuaded the Supreme Court to invalidate a major piece of legislation, then surely such a blogger would be in the running for a Pulitzer that year.
Someday, somewhere, some legal blogger is going to win a Pulitzer. I look forward to reading the stories.

This blog in maintained by the Boston personal injury lawyers at The Law Office of Alan H. Crede, P.C.