On December 12, the ABA posted a statement on its website announcing that it had named former U.S Attorney General Alberto Gonzales as "Lawyer of the Year" for 2007.
Feedback was received.
Two days later, it posted another statement saying that its terminology had been misunderstood, and that "Lawyer of the Year" was not intended as an accolade but rather only to mean "the year’s biggest legal newsmaker." It noted that Time Magazine has followed a similar policy and has occasionally faced a similar controversy. (Bonus trivia points if you can name Time’s "Dictators of the Year" for 1938 and 1939.) The Journal regretted that it had not made its theme clear. "We appreciate the feedback we’ve received," the statement said, "and we’re acting on it."
Gonzales is now the "Newsmaker of the Year." The story is (allegedly) otherwise unchanged.
The new rationale left many commenters still unhappy, noting that the title still sounded like an award and so headlines would likely give that impression. "[B]y your standards, Michael Vick should be named ‘Quarterback of the Year,’" said one comment posted on the ABA’s website.
Runners-up for the position of Newsmaker [Who Happens to Be a Lawyer] of the Year included other controversial figures such as Michael Nifong, who prosecuted (for a while) the Duke University lacrosse players charged with rape. Nifong really should be the Newsmaker [Who Used to Be a Lawyer] of the Year because he no longer has a license to practice law. Also on the list, "Scooter Libby," Howard K. "Not Anna Nicole’s Baby Daddy" Stern, and Marvelous Monica Goodling, among others.
Oddly, the ABA has already named the Newsmakers [Who Happen to Be Lawyers] of the Year for 2008, though no news has yet been made during that year. The predicted winner: new U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who is indeed very likely to make a headline or two. Still, seems like we could wait to name the biggest newsmaker of 2008 until after that person has actually made news in 2008.
Link: American Bar Association (the statement)
Link: ABA Journal (the newsmaker story itself)