District Attorney and Civil Litigator Catherine Crier also a host on her own TV Show

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Television is not typically the place to look for real live Law Stars. But this Law Star, former judge, district attorney, civil litigator, Emmy Award-winning journalist and host of her own daily show on Court TV, is no typical TV star.

Fans who tune in to Catherine Crier Live on Court TV each weekday know this week's camera-ready Law Star as the gracious but hard-hitting host with the slight Dallas twang whose talent at asking the tough questions served her well as a prosecutor and, in 1984, as the youngest elected state judge in Texas.



Television is not typically the place to look for real live Law Stars. But this Law Star, former judge, district attorney, civil litigator, Emmy Award-winning journalist and host of her own daily show on Court TV, is no typical TV star.

Fans who tune in to Catherine Crier Live on Court TV each weekday know this week's camera-ready Law Star as the gracious but hard-hitting host with the slight Dallas twang whose talent at asking the tough questions served her well as a prosecutor and, in 1984, as the youngest elected state judge in Texas.

And folks who are not among the 80 million subscribers to Court TV may just as well know Catherine Crier as the tenacious author of the best-selling book slamming the legal profession, The Case Against Lawyers. (Or, more precisely, The Case Against Lawyers: How the Lawyers, Politicians and Bureaucrats Have Turned the Law Into an Instrument of Tyranny - and What We as Citizens Have to Do About It.)

Needless to say, Ms. Crier is not the shy type. And she is lovably famous for posing vexing questions about the current state of legal affairs in our country, such as, "Why is it that if you can't kick nicotine, you can win a lawsuit for billions, but if you can't kick another drug, you can go to prison?"

Indeed.

Before stepping into the media spotlight and becoming a bona fide TV journalist, commentator and multi-media star, Ms. Crier made her bones as a real life lawyer and a judge. Beginning in 1978, she handled criminal prosecutions as assistant district attorney and felony chief prosecutor for the Dallas County District Attorney's Office. From there, our Law Star honed her skills in civil practice as a litigator at Riddle & Brown in Dallas, where she focused on business and corporate cases. Then, in 1985 Ms. Crier made judicial history by winning the bench as the youngest elected Lone Star State judge, presiding for five years over personal injury, business, real estate, and other civil cases in the 162nd District Court in Dallas County.

Judge Crier then hung up her robe and began the next phase of her multi-faceted career. She first went on the air - actually, on cable — at CNN as co-anchor of news programs Inside Politics '92 and The World Today. At CNN, she also hosted the first of many television shows to bear her name, Crier & Company, a news talk show which featured panels of women expert commentators who discussed national and international news topics of the day.

Also before her arrival at Court TV, Ms. Crier's fans watched her in action at ABC News, where she worked the airwaves as a correspondent and substitute anchor for Peter Jennings on World News Tonight, and for Ted Koppel on Nightline. She also worked as a correspondent on 20/20. And over at Fox News Channel, our ever-rising Law Star interviewed people in the news each night on The Crier Report.

Then, in January 2000, Ms. Crier debuted on Court TV as anchor of Crier Today. Currently she serves as executive editor, and of course, soaks up the spotlight as the cool and self-confident host of her own fresh daily show, Catherine Crier Live, in which she covers the day's hot legal news.

And since October 2002, when her eyebrow-raising opus, The Case Against Lawyers, hit the shelves, Ms. Crier added an author's hat to her rack, proving that in front of the camera or the keyboard, our independent-minded and opinionated Law Star commands attention.

Ms. Crier attended the University of Texas where she earned a B.A. in political science and international affairs. From there, she picked up her law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law.

Just for the record, we note that next to her shiny new Law Star, a sampling of awards collected by Ms. Crier includes, in no particular order, the Emmy Award, the duPont-Columbia Award honoring excellence in television and radio journalism, a few Gracie Allen Awards from the Foundation of American Women in Radio and Television, the Judge Edward R. Finch Law Day Speech Award presented by the ABA, the Les Femmes du Monde Award from the Dallas Council on World Affairs, and more. She's been on TV Guide's "Dynamic Dozen" list, the ABA's Barrister magazine's list of "Twenty Young Lawyers Who Make a Difference," and … you get the picture. To get the interview, we had to wait patiently for our fast-moving Law Star to return from a sudden trip to Asia. Now, without commercials or other interruption, here she is.

Q: Ms. Crier, for your stellar work at Court TV, years of cutting-edge legal journalism, provocative and insightful writing, and nonstop efforts to improve the American justice system, we are honored to award you a Law Star.

From district attorney to private lawyer to judge to TV journalist to best-selling author, what is the most fun you've had so far and which job was the most satisfying?

A: My time in television has been exhilarating…'fun' is certainly an appropriate adjective to describe the experience. As for my most satisfying job, the bench wins out. To take on a personal conflict and attempt to diffuse, then resolve it, with a win-win goal in mind, was a challenge. Yet sometimes it was actually achievable. The hands-on ability to make positive change in people's lives was very rewarding. My role in television is usually not as intimate, but even there, I have moments when one broadcast can truly make a difference.

Q: When Court TV launched in 1991, it was Steve Brill's vision to shine daylight on courtroom trials. Since then, the network has added original programming and popular crime investigation series such as NYPD Blue to its lineup. What are you most proud of with regard to the contribution the network has made to our understanding of the justice system? And what are your own plans at the network and beyond?

A: Court TV has expanded its vision to encompass myriad interests in the area of crime and justice. However, the real-time examination and analysis of our legal system is the heart of the network. I am able to give 'immediate' coverage to headline events while taking on important in-depth investigations into matters that sometimes fly below the radar but desperately need public attention.

Q: As a strong supporter of televising trials, you have said, "Ultimately, the justice system belongs to the people. We pay the bills and we should be able to see what we are getting in return." We understand 37 states allow cameras in the courts. Can you fill us in briefly on continuing efforts to get cameras in more courtrooms?

A: Court TV has an ongoing crusade to open up all of the courts in our system, from the local and state venues all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. By action, as well as argument, we hope to convince remaining holdouts that the benefits of transparency outweigh the inconvenience of public examination.

Q: On a related note, in the age of reality TV, webcams and nonstop mobile communications, not much left in American life appears to be private or off-limits to media coverage. In light of all this, what is your opinion about the more difficult question of cameras in jury deliberation rooms? How about televised executions? And where do we draw the line?

A: As a former trial lawyer and judge, I do have personal opinions about limitations on trial coverage. The jury deliberation process should remain inviolate. To request the right to broadcast from the jury room is no different than asking to publicize in-camera matters or a judge's personal deliberations as he or she wrestles with the issues. The resulting appeals from such exposure would shut down the system.

As for televising executions, I fear the result would be far different than people expect. Rather than rallying opponents, satisfying a thirst for vengeance, or even deterring bad guys, the event would just inoculate us from the horror and political debate as we simply watch someone put to sleep.

Q: Certain crimes and murder trials seem to captivate the nation and generate almost obsessive amounts of publicity and attention. And many notorious cases make national celebrities out of murder suspects and cold-blooded killers. Why do you think as a society we are so fascinated by crime and criminal investigations, and is this a good thing?

A: For centuries, man's aberrant behavior has fascinated the public. The Greeks and Shakespeare gave us many a bloody stage. Jack the Ripper continues to haunt us, while famous trials throughout U.S. history have been standing room only events. Over the years, public interest hasn't changed, but thankfully, the manner in which we handle increased exposure is becoming more civilized.

Q: Your popular, unique and controversial book, The Case Against Lawyers, has won praise from folks across the political spectrum, from Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. to Bill O'Reilly. You have said you wrote it because, "The rule of law has become as tyrannical as King George. We must, again, put human judgment, reason and common sense above the rules…" What have you learned in the year and a half since publishing this expose? Can you report any examples of positive change - where common sense has come to prevail over senseless and tyrannical laws? And some readers no doubt wonder: do you have any lawyer friends left?

A: Since the publication of The Case Against Lawyers, I have received enormous public support for the principles I espouse. Most people are reasonable, pragmatic, and long for more common sense in our courts and government agencies. In the past year, my home state of Texas has passed meaningful tort reform and New York is presently building a movement to change the draconian Rockefeller drug laws. Even Congress got into the act when it legislated against lawsuits that blame fast food for personal obesity problems. As for my lawyer friends, they still tolerate me and a fair number actually agree with my ideas!

Q: What can you tell us about your next book - or dare we ask?

A: My next book, scheduled for publication in 2005, will be a look at the effect of media, especially television, on the trial process. It will examine trials throughout the 20th century with an eye to determining the real effects of press coverage on these proceedings. The 'sequel' to The Case Against Lawyers is also in the works. I was just warming up in the first book.

Q: Yikes! Well, we look forward to that! Now, no legal system is perfect, and as a judge, you must have seen your share of what you would deem miscarriages of justice. As you well know, one example is the case of Greg Ott, a man who, having served 26 years for the accidental killing of a Texas Ranger, has faced denials of parole under shady circumstances that you have brought to the attention of many, including the governor of Texas. But isn't this a highly unusual situation? On the whole, should people be more suspicious and cynical about criminal justice in America? Or are you confident in the system, despite its flaws?

A: Our criminal justice system gets a lot of things right, but there are many areas that need reform. From our juvenile system that offers little rehabilitation, to the adult institutions that serve best as good crime schools, the entire prison system is sorely in need of reconstruction. The courts, like police, probation and parole departments, are overworked and under funded. Additionally, the nation should follow the brave example of former Governor Ryan in Illinois when he issued a moratorium on that state's death penalty. These are but a few of the areas I address in the book and on my Court TV program.

Q: Do you feel the Bush administration is on the right track with the Patriot Act and other legislation enacted in response to threats to our homeland and security in this time of global terror?

A: In times of national crisis, our federal government has consistently used such moments to expand its power over the states and individuals. The Patriot Act, arising from the ashes of the World Trade Center, is no different. The legislation is politically expedient, but more than that, it is an open-ended means of invading the lives of law-abiding citizens with few checks and balances or recourse for personal harm.

Q: What advice can you offer young lawyers or students who would love to emulate your success in law or media and be the next Catherine Crier? What was your strategy for making it big, and how much, if any, is luck?

A: Gads. Other than planning to be a lawyer from an early age, my maneuvering has been mostly happenstance. I will say that I have never defined myself by my law degree. Instead, I look at things I do well or would like to learn and pursue those areas. I am interested in almost everything, so I'm a perpetual student.

I also believe in a phrase I heard years ago: Courage to risk, freedom to fail. If people give themselves permission to fail, they will take greater risks with their careers and dreams.

Q: Your fans have heard about your love of Arabian horses. If we may ask, how much of a cowgirl are you at heart, really?

A: I grew up in a Dallas suburb, but got to the country as fast as I could. My family began raising and showing Arabians in the 1960's. By 1969, we had so many horses that we moved to a farm outside of Sherman, Texas, about 60 miles north of Dallas. During my senior year, I commuted to school every day rather than switch high schools.

When I moved to New York eleven years ago, I managed to live in an apartment for two years before moving an hour north. I have four horses and five dogs on my thirty-acre property. The daily two-hour commute is worth every minute.

Q: Finally, despite the case against them, tell us, who are your personal Law Stars — in legal media or other arenas?

A: There are many wonderful lawyers in this country. I wouldn't dare pick favorites as I might offend a future guest!

Q: Thank you very much! And just for fun, what is your favorite lawyer joke?

A: I am so bad at remembering jokes! However, I do like this one: The doctor, priest and lawyer owe their deceased friend ten grand a piece. They agree to drop the money in the coffin at his funeral. At the viewing, the doctor and priest reluctantly part with their dough. The lawyer, however skips right up, pulls out their $20,000 and drops in his check for the whole amount.



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