Giving Thanks (Media / Law Edition)

On this Thanksgiving holiday, there are many brave people in both journalism and justice who deserve our gratitude

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It's been a tough year for a lot of people and I suspect a great many Americans -- particularly the 99 percent -- have less to be thankful for this year than last. This column isn't about any of that. It's about appreciating and giving thanks to some of the people I've come across in 2011, or been reminded about anyway, whose presence graces a small part of our world. 

I am thankful for the work of David Cole, the law professor, whose coverage of the legal war on terror, and the U.S.'s torture policy in particular, will be treasured by future historians. Here is his latest piece in The New York Review of Books.

I am thankful for Arvo Mikkanen, the longtime federal prosecutor in Oklahoma, whose nomination to the federal trial bench has been blocked by Republican Senator Tom Coburn. Mikkanen has been waiting more than nine months now just to have his nomination considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee -- and he hasn't uttered a public word of complaint about the process. The Dartmouth- and Yale-educated lawyer would be only the third Native American jurist in the nation's history. He deserves better.

I am thankful for the writing of Elizabeth Kolbert of The New Yorker, whose work on the environment is almost always transcendent. She deserves a Pulitzer. She really does.

I am thankful for former Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and John Paul Stevens, moderate jurists of another era, who continue to serve America in their official retirement by educating people about the law. O'Connor's post-Court legacy in particular is huge -- she travels around the country lecturing about civics and judicial independence. What true patriots.

I am thankful for people like Kate Black, at the Texas Defender Service, who works tirelessly for little pay to try to make sure that condemned inmates in the Lone Star State get whatever constitutional rights to which they are entitled. The criminal justice system would crash without people like Black.

I am thankful for the legal coverage of Jess Bravin at The Wall Street Journal who almost always tells me something I didn't know about the law.

I am thankful for the work of 6th U.S Circuit Judge Jeffrey Sutton, the Bush-appointee who voted earlier this year to endorse the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In a perfect world, he wouldn't be a profile in courage. In our world, he is.

I am thankful for Howard Mortman, over at C-SPAN, who works so hard each and every year trying to bring more cameras into our federal courts. One of these decades, Howard, one of these decades.

I am thankful for Katherine Meyer, the Washington attorney who has spent so much time this year trying to keep the Bureau of Land Management honest in its stewardship of our nation's wild horses.

I am thankful for CBS Radio News' Bob Fuss, the Congressional correspondent, whose expertise about the political machinations on Capitol Hill is breathtaking.

I am thankful for the work of New Hampshire lawmaker Christopher Serlin, a Democrat from Portsmouth who has his hands full these days trying to fend off senseless partisanship at the State House in Concord.   

I am thankful for James Fallows and Carl Cannon and Frontline -- but who isn't?

I am thankful for U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro, the Massachusetts jurist who led the way toward the dismantling of the Defense of Marriage Act, and for U.S. District Judge William Nealon, the Pennsylvania jurist and Kennedy appointee who still serves his country 50 years later.  

I am thankful for Colbert and Stewart, Lithwick and Liptak, the dissents of Justices Elena Kagan and Antonin Scalia and, of course, this year especially, Wickard v. Filburn.

Presented by

Andrew Cohen is a contributing editor at The Atlantic. He is a legal analyst for 60 Minutes and CBS Radio News, a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice, and Commentary Editor at The Marshall Project

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