Since 1958 the American Bar Association has presented Gavel Awards annually to recognize products in media and the arts that have been exemplary in fostering the American public's understanding of the law and the legal system. The following products are eligible: newspaper and magazine articles, books, theatrical productions, television and radio programs, film and video productions, and new media. To address this purpose, the Gavel Awards also 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 perpectives);
educate 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; and
- encourage public support for improvements in the American justice system by informing the public about current practices, policies and issues.
Two awards are presented: Silver Gavels, the program's highest honor, and, since 2000, Honorable Mentions. The president of the American Bar Association presents honorees with inscribed Silver Gavels at a special awards presentation event at the ABA's annual meeting.
Winning entries 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 was established in 1988 as a multimedia collection serving as the official repository of competition entries awarded either the ABA's Silver Gavel Award or Certificate of Merit/Honorable Mention. 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 by 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.