Court of public opinion

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For the book titled: "In the Court of Public Opinion" see: Alger Hiss.

Trying cases in the court of public opinion refers to using the news media to influence public support for one side or the other in a court case. This can result in persons outside the justice system (i.e. people other than the judge or jury) taking action for or against a party. For instance, the reputation of a party may be greatly damaged even if he wins the case.[1][2] A lawyer[who?] noted that when he represents high-profile clients, he sometimes finds them in a (figurative) Bermuda triangle of cross-currents[need quotation to verify] generated by a criminal investigation, the news media, and the U.S. Congress.[3] It has been noted that there is no Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination in the court of public opinion.[4]

It is said that high-profile cases have important implications for balancing the right of the public to scrutinize the judicial process and the right of the participants to a fair trial.[5] An argument against U.S. ratification of the Statute of the International Criminal Court was that a politically motivated prosecutor might attempt to convict the United States in the court of public opinion of a violation of international law, by charging one of its military or civilian officials with war crimes.[6] The court of public opinion has been described as the most important informal court.[7]


It has been said[by whom?] that the prosecutor in the Duke lacrosse case attempted to try the case in the court of public opinion by making unsupported allegations to the media.[5] In the Kobe Bryant sexual assault case, it was alleged that parties were using court pleadings as press releases.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ JM Moses (1995), Legal Spin Control: Ethics and Advocacy in the Court of Public Opinion, Columbia Law Review, JSTOR 1123196
  2. ^ Haggerty, James (2003), In the court of public opinion : winning your case with public relations
  3. ^ Bennett, Robert S. (1996–1997), Press Advocacy and the High-Profile Client, 30, Loy. L. A. L. Rev., p. 13
  4. ^ J Marquis (2005), The Myth of Innocence, Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology
  5. ^ a b The Court of Public Opinion, Duke University School Of Law, September 28–29, 2007
  6. ^ Leigh, Monroe (2001), United States and the Statute of Rome, The, 95, Am. J. Int'l L., p. 124
  7. ^ JM Bryson; BC Crosby (1993), Policy planning and the design and use of forums, arenas, and courts (PDF)
  8. ^ SA Terilli; SL Splichal; PJ Driscol (2007), Lowering the Bar: Privileged Court Filings as Substitutes for Press Releases in the Court of Public Opinion (PDF), Communication Law