Since 1958 the American Bar Association has presented Silver Gavel Awards for Media and the Arts annually to recognize work that have been exemplary in fostering the American public's understanding of the law and the legal system. The following works are eligible: books, magazines, newspapers, film, television, radio, and new media including digital. The Silver Gavel Awards seek to recognize publications and programs that meet one or more of these objectives:
Educate the public about the American constitutional/legal system and the fundamental principles and values upon which it is based (this may include both domestic and international issues or comparative perspectives);
Inform the public about the operations of legal institutions (e.g., the courts, legislatures, regulatory agencies, prisons, and law enforcement agencies) and the role lawyers and other legal professionals play in the justice system; or
- Encourage public support for improvements in the American justice system by informing the public about current practices, policies and issues.
In addition to the Silver Gavel, the program’s highest honor, Honorable Mentions are also awarded. Prior to 1995, these were called Certificate of Merit winners. Awards are presented at a special ceremony at the American Bar Association annual meeting.
Entries winning a Silver Gavel award or Honorable Mention become a permanent part of the Gavel Awards Archive located at the Tarlton Law Library of the University of Texas School of Law. The Archive, a multimedia collection, was established in 1988 to serve as the official repository of competition winners. A full, credited description of each winning entry is entered into OCLC's WorldCat, the world's most comprehensive bibliographic database. Through WorldCat, materials in the Gavel Awards Archive are available to universities and research institutions throughout the country via interlibrary loan.
Gavel Awards Archive materials are located in the Gavel Room on south side the 3rd floor of the library. View the 3rd floor map for location details.