Legal Communication Papers @ NCA 2010

Many papers on legal communication were presented at NCA 10: The 96th Annual Convention of the National Communication Association, held November 14-17, 2010 in San Francisco, California, USA. Here is a list of those I could identify: (If you know of others, please feel free to identify them in the comments to this post. Click here for the complete NCA 2010 program.)

Lin Allen, Chair: Panel Discussion: Building Bridges in the Legal Communication Classroom: Innovative Ideas.

Timothy Barouch, Law and the Liberal Imagination: A Renewed Call for Generic Criticism. Abstract:

This paper renews the connection between rhetorical practice and the law. It reviews the strengths of generic criticism as a discourse hermeneutic, then situates the judicial opinion in relation to the larger liberal culture of which it is a part. This approach can reveal the ways that the law provisionally resolves recurrent crises, as well as blind spots that will lead to a fresh appraisal of liberal culture’s staying power and desirability.

Jeffrey Bennett, Diabetes on Trial: Sonia Sotomayor and the Rhetoric of Recuperation. Abstract:

Sonia Sotomayor’s rise to the Supreme Court highlighted a number of troubling ideological scripts that were saturated with racism and sexism. However, one of the more quickly forgotten discourses that framed Sotomayor’s capacities to be a justice dealt explicitly with her type-one diabetes. Diagnosed as a diabetic at a young age, Sotomayor’s diabetes was initially situated as a potential roadblock to the bench. Critics argued that if her diabetes was not properly managed, it might shorten her stay on the court. This unfounded accusation that underscored a “lack of control” was sometimes articulated to her identity as a Latina woman. Nonetheless, this discourse was soon superseded by a startling reversal, wherein Sotomayor was positioned as a “super crip,” capable of managing her diabetes better than most other diabetics. In the words of one writer, “According to her doctor, she has excellent control of her diabetes, with consistent blood sugars better than 98% of diabetics.” This was seen as especially remarkable because Sotomayor grew up in a low-income home with a single mother. This about-face in the Sotomayor saga offers an illuminating case study about how diabetes is imagined in the public sphere. Diabetes is something that is either radically out of control or wholly managed and seemingly without complication. While Sotomayor is certainly a role model for people with type-one diabetes, the public coverage could also have at least one negative impact. People of color, and especially those who have little access to quality medical care, are disproportionately affect by diabetes and its devastating consequences. This paper argues that a subtle script of management underscores the coverage, forwarding the idea that people can always be more in control of their disease, regardless of the circumstances they encounter. This is a familiar script of neo-liberalism, asserting scripts of individual responsibility for managing disease, not communal narratives of systemic neglect.

Bernadette Calafell, From One Wise Latina to Another: A Performative Response to Judge Sotomayor from Within the Academy. Abstract:

This paper explores the responses to Judge Sonia Sotomayor as symptomatic of new or inferential racism and sexism, which appears to include people of color and challenges systems of power, but in actuality serves to re-center whiteness and maleness. This critique is offered in performative response to the context as well as to Sotomayor directly by locating these discourses within the academy and its hostility toward women of color in general, and Latinas in particular.

Douglas S. Campbell & William Brown, Assessing Effects of Pretrial Publicity through Agenda-Setting and Framing. Abstract:

This paper explores the influence of agenda-setting and framing on a person’s right to a fair trial. A treatment-posttest research design was employed to study the effects of news reports of a murder trial. Results indicate that both agenda-setting and framing have unique effects on perceptions of guilt based on published news reports. Implications of these findings for future research on pre-trial publicity and the right to a fair trial are discussed.

Brett Caraway, Digital Public Goods and the RIAA Litigation Campaign. Abstract:

Throughout the 20th century much creative production was organized in an industrial economy in which capital-intensive forms of production necessitated huge returns on investment. At the start of the 21st century however, new communication technologies have facilitated alternative and non-market forms of creative production. This paper investigates peer-to-peer file sharing networks and the challenge they represent to existing intellectual property regimes. The music industry’s litigation campaign against file sharers is analyzed as a response to an emerging economy of digital public goods.

Michael Chambers, Bound by No Law, No Soul, No Anything at All: Bridging Constructions of Corporate Personhood by Reformers Past and Present. Abstract:

Like reformers today, members of many late nineteenth century American social movements challenged the increasing legal, political, and economic pressures to grant corporations the rights of natural citizens. By juxtaposing late nineteenth century reformers’ constructions of corporate personhood with those of contemporary reformers, this study examines the rhetorical strategies they used to (re)constitute “corporate persons” as pathological actors that corrupt the proper application of constitutionally guaranteed rights and privileges.

Christopher Darr, Media Reports, Hostile Witnesses, and Accusations: Tactics of Incivility in Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings. Abstract:

This paper investigates three tactics that contribute to incivility in Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings: “secondary incivility,” wherein Senators introduce uncivil quotes and other material from media and other outside sources; “tertiary incivility,” where Senators invite hostile witnesses who then attack nominees in their stead; and accusations of incivility, which serve to shift the focus of debates from the nominee to the process itself.

Carolyn Day, Verbal Space-as-Text: A Performative Examination of Discourse at the Cross-roads of the Family Law Court System. Abstract:

Presenting an interweaving example of the discursive hierarchical and hegemonic power constructs that are typically prevalent within family law cases, this performative narrative presents a ‘verbal space-as-text’ framework highlighting the complexities of power relations, social conventions and immigration, while challenging traditional beliefs and assumptions about the norms of marriage and divorce.

Darrel Enck-Wanzer, ¡Yo Soy Boricua, Pa’Que Tu Lo Sepas! Or, Racial Neoliberalism and the Public Controversy Surrounding Sonja Sotomayor. Abstract:

This essay reads the public controversy surrounding Sonja Sotomayor’s nomination and confirmation to Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. Central to this controversy was a conservative oppositional reading of Sotomayor’s 2001 Judge Mario G. Olmos Memorial Lecture at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law. Taking one sentence in her speech—“I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life”—out of context and arguing it was proof of both her judicial activism and her racist beliefs, conservative commentators reinforced two hegemonic projects that work in tandem with one another. First, those opposed to Sotomayor reinforce what Pierre Schlag calls a “grid aesthetic” of American law, where “law is etched in stone” and there is little room for interpretation outside of the “bright-line rules” inscribed in the law. Second, Sotomayor’s opponents advance an antiracialism (where the very mention of race is tantamount to racism), which is central to what scholars like David Theo Goldberg call the hegemonic neoliberal racial project. In this case, the grid aesthetic and the racial neoliberalism work together to craft Sotomayor as a racist liberal activist judge. And in response, both she and President Barack Obama apologized for her remarks, the controversy subsided, and Sotomayor was confirmed to the Supreme Court. In this essay, I argue that Sotomayor’s opposition and supporters (like Obama and herself) are equally culpable in reinforcing the hegemonic neoliberal racial project and further securing the notion that racial consciousness (whether expressed or attributed) is inherently racist.

Lindsey Harvell, Gwendelyn Nisbett, & Glenn Hansen, Analyzing Journalistic Approaches of Supreme Court Hearings: A Longitudinal Study. Abstract:

This study explores how coverage of the U.S. Supreme Court nominee hearings has changed throughout history. With the expectation of differences in the way the hearings were presented longitudinally, this study uses Hierarchical Linear Modeling to look at various categories regarding the presentation of each article and compares that to each hearing across time.

Lindsey Harvell, Kylie Robertson, & Gwendelyn Nisbett, Can Game-Frames be Contained? Examining the Reach of Game-Frames in Media Coverage of Supreme Court Hearings. Abstract:

This research predicts that the way the media frames the events leading up to a Supreme Court decision and immediately after the decision has shifted from a policy focus to a strategy focus.

Marouf Arif Hasian, The Media Coverage of the Munich Demjanjuk Trial, Second Generational Traumas, and the ‘Grey Zone’ of Holocaust Culpability. Abstract:

This essay investigates legal and communicative complications as reported by the national and international press of the most recent John Demjanjuk trial. For more than thirty years, authorities in Israel, Russia, the United States, the Netherlands and now Germany have claimed that Demjanjuk served as a prison guard either at the Treblinka or Sobibor death camps. Public debates over his potential culpability have raised questions of Holocaust identities, relative culpability, post-World War II justice, and generational traumas. In Demjanjuk’s recent trial in Munich, what began as a jurisprudential proceeding that would allow for the victims’ testimony of second generational witnesses has morphed into legal and public examples of what Primo Levi called the “Grey Zone,” that ambiguous region of moral culpability in which the roles of victims, perpetrators and bystanders blur. Implications of the blurring of moral clarity for American Holocaust Memory are discussed.

Kirstie Hettinga, Clouding the issue: How online newspaper user agreements and discussion guidelines blur legal rights and responsibilities. Abstract:

This research examines user agreements from the top 20 U.S. newspapers in circulation. User agreements were often buried so audiences may have difficulty finding them. Many publications also provide supplementary materials, but these usually fail to acknowledge issues of content ownership and responsibility. Typically, publications abide by a laissez faire approach to user-generated content. For users to understand the ramifications of their “click-through” consent agreements need to be more explicitly stated and displayed more prominently.

Catrin E. Johansson & Cynthia Stohl, Cultural Competence and Institutional Contradictions: The Hydropower Referendum. Abstract:

This paper explores the organizational dynamics embedded within the changing institutional context of a Swedish community. A hydropower company, trying to gain permission to extend a hydropower plant attempted a new model of action regarding relationship building and communication with the local community. Findings suggest that organizational awareness and strategy to meet new needs in the contemporary complex institutional environment are insufficient without special attention to institutional contradictions and the resultant communicative paradoxes.

Lorna Keathley & John Haas, Law Enforcement & Verbal Judo: A Tactical Communication. Abstract:

This study explored compliance-gaining messages in law enforcement contexts. The project centered on Verbal Judo, a program that emphasizes the use of communication and highlights communication tactics that affect/diminish conflict. Police officers trained in Verbal Judo participted in in-depth interviews designed to explore their percpetions of its use. The results shed light on the utility of an applied program designed to generate compliance through communication.

Daniel Linz, Bryant Paul, & Christopher Seaman, Empirical Jurisprudence Applied to Speech Regulations: A Longitudinal Investigation of the Secondary Effects of Adult Businesses in Indianapolis. Abstract:

This paper describes the use of empirical data on negative secondary effects in a hearing seeking preliminary relief enjoining Defendant, the City of Indianapolis, from enforcing its ordinance. The resulting empirical standard applied at the preliminary relief hearing directly challenges the wisdom of the “reasonably believed to relevant “ standard laid out in Renton and reiterated in Alameda Books replaces it with an empirical standard advocated by justice Souter in his dissent in Alameda Books.

John McGrath, COMM 101 Meets Product Liability Litigation. Abstract:

Largely because of product liability litigation, much attention has been given to the design and content of warning labels. Juries are asked to assess liability by determining if an injured person was adequately warned, and the warning label becomes the central focus of analysis. This paper argues that such analyses may favor the messages characteristics of a label at the expense of considering how context is relevant to our understanding of warning label effectiveness.

Bernardo Motto, Community Right to Know and Toxic Pollution: Using Environmental Risk Communication to Build Bridges Between Communication and Law. Abstract:

This paper investigates an important legislative response to more than 5,000 environmental disasters involving toxic spills in the United States between 1980 and 1985. EPCRA was the first federal law to fully embrace the community-right-to-know approach to public policy. EPCRA’s community-right-to-know-approach created opportunities for the development and application of environmental risk communication practices that have served as a model for more than 80 countries and are heralded today as the future of participatory policy making.

Jeffrey Nelson, The 2009 Iowa Supreme Court Gay Marriage Ruling: An Excision of Shame. Abstract:

In April 2009 the Iowa Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision legalizing same-sex marriage for the state.The court’s rhetoric differed radically in some key respects from the rhetoric used by Supreme Court justices dealing with the gay-marriage issue in Massachusetts, California, and Connecticut. The paper analyzes the rhetorical differences.

Lindsay Neuberger, Political Uncertainty Reduction through Information Seeking: A Test Using Online Voting Guides. Abstract:

The current research proposes a political information seeking model based on components of uncertainty reduction theory, Downs’ economic theory of democracy, and Zaller’s receive accept sample model. A mock election experimental methodology pre-tested participants before giving them access to a voting guide, and post-testing them. Some participants were given party identification cues while were not. Results indicate that uncertainty is reduced throughout mock campaigns, and participants both use and appreciate online voting guides.

David Lynn Painter & Maridith Miles, Marriage Protection Amendments and Young Citizens: Campaign Advertising and the Decision-Making Process. Abstract:

A pretest-posttest experimental design (N = 357) was used to test the effects of campaign advertisements on voting decisions and attitudes toward a ballot measure banning same-sex marriage. Results indicate there was a significant change in attitudes among those exposed to campaign messages in support of this proposition and that causal attributions of homosexuality, social control judgment index scores, and campaign message exposure were the most significant predictors of voting behavior on the ballot proposition.

Jay Reynolds Patterson, The Rhetoric of WTO Dispute Settlement: Its Role in Masking, Naturalizing, and Advancing an Americanized Narrative of Globalization. Abstract:

As an extension of the work done on globalization by Jameson , this essay argues that the WTO’s dispute settlement mechanism is a rhetorical device that functions to mask and naturalize an Americanized narrative of globalization. The influence of the United States in constructing international agreements is evident in the nature of the decisions made by the Dispute Settlement Body (DSB), and therefore is evidence of the ideological nature of the WTO.

Justin Reedy & John Gastil, From the Secret Ballot to the Public Vote: Examining Political Discussion in Vote-by-Mail Elections. Abstract:

In American democracy, there is a tension between public political discussion and secret ballots. The rise of vote-by-mail elections, however, blends these ideals by allowing voters to discuss their views and electoral choices with others while filling out their ballots. We present results from a public opinion survey showing the prevalence of these discussions, the factors that predict engaging in them, and the effects voters may see from talking while voting absentee.

Justin Reedy, Chris Wells, & John Gastil, Media and Campaign Messages and the Emergence of Values-Based Knowledge Distortion in Initiative Elections. Abstract:

Research on motivated reasoning and political misinformation has suggested that voters can be led astray by shoddy facts and end up holding incorrect empirical beliefs. Building on this research, we present a refined theoretical model explaining how factual beliefs on political issues can be distorted by underlying values. We test this model to determine how values, political knowledge, and other factors are related to distorted empirical beliefs about ballot initiatives.

Emily Richardson, Understanding Communication in the Public Courtroom: An Ethnographic Approach. Abstract:

This study examined communication patterns that emerged in an open family violence court during protective order hearings. Through observation as a member of the public, I was able to gather data from an ethnographic lens to understand the multiple communicative events taking place in this culture. Findings shed light on the balance between professional and social exchanges in a legal context, and offer insights into communication boundaries, personas of authority, and the use of humor.

Genevieve Risner & Daniel Bergan, Selling Deliberation: The Effect of Participation Messages on Citizen’s Policy Support and External Efficacy. Abstract:

This research attempted to determine how knowledge that similar citizens participated in policymaking or elites designed a policy affect support for the policy and external efficacy. Results from a field experiment suggest who participates matters. Citizens do not want “people like them” developing policies. Also, knowing that similar others were engaged in participatory political processes does not appear to alter external efficacy. These findings pose implications for the promotion of deliberative processes.

Aimee Carrillo Rowe, Selling Sotomayor: Malinchista and the Temporality of ‘Wise Latinas’. Abstract:

The figure of La Malinche, the indigenous woman who bore Cortes’ children, animates gendered relations of Chicano/Mexicano by feminizing treachery. Alternately, Chicana feminists have reclaimed this historic “mother of the Mexican race” for her treachery and her tongue. In this presentation I read the story of Sonia Sotomayor’s Supreme Court nomination through the story of La Malinche to tease out the temporalities of racial, gendered, and hetero/sexual U.S. assimilation. As a speaking Latina figure, Sotomayor deploys her tongue to mark white male privilege. Thus her rhetoric potentially ruptures the developmentalist time through which her life story is narrated within mainstream popular culture. As such, I read Sotomayor’s rhetorical intervention as a moment of Latina “return”: Latinas who “fail” such tests of assimilation mark out possibilities for temporalities that work against the normalizing impulse of developmentalist time across intersecting axes of power.

William Saas, The Office of Legal Counsel: A Rhetorical History. Abstract:

Sometimes referred to as “the President’s law firm,” the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) has for over 75 years played a significant role in the crafting of White House policy rhetoric. Yet the OLC remains perhaps the least well-known agency of the executive branch. Toward that end, this essay provides a rhetorical history of the OLC, explicating its “co-inventional” relationship with White House rhetoric through relevant historical and contemporary case studies.

Susan Sarapin & Glenn Sparks, The Viewing of TV Crime Drama and the ‘CSI Effect’: There’s a Verdict Hanging in the Balance. Abstract:

This study explored the relationship between TV crime-drama viewing and the tendency to acquit or convict a defendant in a murder and rape case, the “CSI effect.” Results indicated frequent exposure to TV crime drama is: (a) significantly associated with a tendency to acquit a murder defendant in a predominantly circumstantial case; (b) not associated with verdict choice in the rape case; (c) and significantly associated with an evidence-related rationale for the two verdicts.

Jennifer Scarduzio, Emotion Talk and Anger Expression: The Emotional Landscape of a Municipal Courthouse. Abstract:

The purpose of this study is to gain a better understanding of the emotion talk of municipal court judges as it emerges in court recordings, interviews, and observations. This piece provides a rationale for studying emotion talk and explores its intersections with power and status. The findings suggest that there are differences in the emotions that judges claim to express and the actual emotions that emerge in observations and court recordings.

Shane Semmler et al., A Content Analysis and Experimental Evaluation of 2009 Health Care Reform Policy-Campaign Advertising. Abstract:

This study content analyzed 127 health care reform policy-campaign television advertisements, and it experimentally evaluated the impact of illustrative pro and anti-reform ads during the height of the Senate health care debate. Anti-reform ads were overwhelming negative and conservative. Pro-reform ads did not differ on negativity, but they were overwhelmingly progressive. Compared to controls, both the pro and anti-reform ads elicited less support for health care reform and less faith in federal government.

Mary Lynn Veden, Taming the ‘Living Constitution’: William H. Rehnquist’s Legal Polemic and the Discursive Forms of ‘Judicial Activism’. Abstract:

Legal discourse regarding the phenomenon of “judicial activism” continues to proliferate as scrutiny is trained on the judicial system’s neutrality. Resistance to this phenomenon includes the utilization of legal polemic to distinguish prudent from imprudent standards of judgment. Features of these efforts are examined in the rhetorical strategies of William H. Rehnquist’s 1976 address “The Notion of a Living Constitution”, which attacks liberal jurisprudence with what he characterizes as liberalism’s own history.

Ben Voth, Chair: Panel Discussion: Citizen’s United v. Federal Election Commission: A Rhetorical Analysis.

Carolina Webber, Mediating a Wise Latina: Conforming Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Abstract:

In the wake of President Barak Obama’s nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, both supporting and opposing pundits re/marked upon her ethnicity, gender, class, and even her religion to respectively support their arguments for or against her appointment. Supporting pundits evoked aspects of her identity to demonstrate her ability to lift herself up by her own bootstraps. Conversely, her opponents criticized her purposive Latina identity as evidence of her racist views. On the surface, the debates over Sotomayor’s in/eligibility were extremely polarized. A closer read of this public discourse suggests that an overarching ideology of whiteness organizes meaning across these groups/arguments by normalizing dominant identifications, preserving an extant philosophy of law—colorblind constitutionalism—and maintaining the legal system’s neutrality, objectivity, and fairness. Critical race scholars have long demonstrated the historical and contemporary ways that the legal system maintains the interests of the ruling elite—White, heterosexual, middle, and upper class men and women—by paradoxically constructing the court as neutral, objective and fair. Drawing on critical and feminist theories of race and organization, this present essay continues this conversation through a textual analysis of the media coverage of the nomination and confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. This textual analysis also contributes to organizational communication research by illuminating the explicit and implicit organizing character of whiteness across two social institutions: media and the legal system.

Stacy Westerman, The Judges of Reality Courtroom Television: Guilty of Stereotype Perpetuation. Abstract:

The success and popularity of reality courtroom television following the 1996 O. J. Simpson trial necessitates examination of racial representation in such shows. This paper analyzes the stereotypic representations of race in the media through the judges in three reality courtroom television shows: Judge Hatchett, The People’s Court, and Judge Judy. Results reveal that common stereotypes of African Americans, Latinas, and older women are being perpetuated in this media genre.

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