The Ethics of Talking to the Media


Prosecutors and defense lawyers often seek to use the media to shape public opinion and to help their client’s causes. Even the alleged victim may retain counsel for advice and help in dealing with the media. Each lawyer attempting to advance a client’s position must work within ethical constraints when speaking with and using the media. Courts may also step in and impose legal constraints on the lawyers’ use of the media. Both ethics rules and court orders regulating publicity balance the competing values of a fair trial against free speech and the public’s right to be informed. Before answering a reporter’s questions, calling a press conference, or having other dealings with the media, a lawyer should know the ethical boundaries as well as the potential risks and benefits to the client. In this article, we review both the ethical and practical considerations for the prosecution and the defense when talking with the media.


ethics, professional responsibility, prosecution, defense, media, First Amendment, ABA Model Rules, ABA Model Rule 3.6

Publication Date


Document Type


Place of Original Publication

Criminal Justice

Publication Information

28 (4) Criminal Justice17 (2014)

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COinS Peter A. Joy Faculty Bio