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Penn Law's 2009 Visual Legal Advocacy Roundtable

What’s Next?

Friday, October 23, 2009
9:30 a.m. – 4:15 p.m.
Penn Law School – Gittis 2
34th & Chestnut Streets · Philadelphia, PA

This Roundtable should be of interest to public interest lawyers, entertainment lawyers, law students, law professors, ITS specialists with public interest organizations, documentary filmmakers, and members of the Penn community who are interested in nonfiction video production and social justice issues.

Download Agenda | Flyer.

Watch videos of the roundtable here.


8:45 – 9:30 a.m.

CLE Registration & Continental Breakfast

9:30 – 10:00 a.m.

Visual Legal Advocacy at Penn Law: The Year in Review
Screening of “Silenced” directed by Ann Onymous
Screening of “Children Given One Strike: A Lifetime Without Redemption” directed by Wendell F. Holland, II & Nicole Samuels, 3Ls
Presenter: Professor Regina Austin, William A. Schnader Professor and Director, Penn Program on Documentaries & the Law

10:00 – 10:15 a.m.


10:15 – 11:45 a.m.

“Witnesses to Hunger”: The Anatomy of a Successful Social Justice Media Campaign
Suppose lawyers gave their clients cameras with which to record their lives and their ideas for changing “the system”? Forty women from Philadelphia who have young children were given digital cameras to capture their experiences with hunger and poverty and their ideas for change. Through their visual work and their personal advocacy, they have been able to impact the public policies and programs that affect their lives. For more on Witnesses to Hunger, go to The general technique of combining photography and videography with grassroots activism in order to enable people to represent themselves and their communities is known as “photovoice.” The factors that make for a successful photovoice project as well as the ethical concerns demanded by the technique (which are dealt with in ) should be of interest to lawyers.

Speaker: Mariana Chilton, Ph.D., M.P.H., Associate Professor, Drexel University School of Public Health

11:45 – 1:00 p.m.

Lunch (Free for Registered Attendees at the Goat)

1:00 – 2:30 p.m.

Cameras, Cameras, Everywhere: Making Sense of Surveillance and Vérité Footage from the Streets
Cameras are everywhere—on the streets and in buildings. The police have dash cams, shoulder cams, and head cams. Soon they will have guns that shoot bullets and video at the same time. Bystanders and pedestrians walk around with cellphones and sound recording devices that can instantaneously document action in the streets. Distribution on the web of the material these cameras capture is virtually costless. What are lawyers to make of all this live-action digital media content, especially that obtained during encounters between civilians and the police?

Though the footage is often blurry and unclear, it aids in the apprehension of criminals, both civilians and law enforcement officers. But how often does it also led to the misidentification of innocent people and false accusations of criminal behavior? Documentary filmmakers who have done “ride-alongs” in patrol cars have tips for lawyers on how to read vérité or observational police footage. Lawyers should understand that what is seen within a frame is only part of the scene. What is taking place outside the frame is also relevant and is possibly more important. Video is introduced as demonstrative evidence in criminal proceedings to support claims of a defendant’s innocence or guilt; in addition, it may prove useful in contesting official narratives and proving allegations of perjury and illegal surveillance by the police. Criminologists are evaluating the efficacy of using cameras as a mechanism for auditing routine police interactions.

Ron Kanter, Director, “New Cops
Eileen Clancy, Co-founder, I-Witness Video
John MacDonald, Ph.D., Jerry Lee Assistant Professor of Criminology, UPenn

2:30 – 2:45 p.m.


2:45 – 4:15 p.m.

Social Justice and Public Access Television in Philadelphia: Lessons from Elsewhere
Public access television is hardly a new idea but it is at long last coming to Philadelphia. Considered an “electronic greenspace” or the media equivalent of the public square, public access TV is intended to promote civic discourse, encourage cultural expression, preserve local histories, and enhance community relations through participation in the production process by those left out of mainstream media. Unfortunately, public access programming has also been criticized for being “technically amateurish,” “quirky and esoteric,”and worst of all “bigoted.” Having gotten off to a late start, Philadelphia has the opportunity to learn from public access leaders from elsewhere in the country. What does that bode for social justice programming on public access television in Philadelphia? Is there a role for public interest lawyers and their clients as content providers?

Gretjen Clausing, Executive Director, Philadelphia Community Access Media (PhillyCAM)
Betty Yu, Community Outreach & Media Specialist, Manhattan Neighborhood
Network (MNN)

Richard Turner, Executive Director, Montgomery Community Television, Rockville, MD


Continuing Legal Education Credit The Roundtable provides a maximum of 5 hours of CLE credit, including 1/2 hour of ethics credit for the morning program and 1/2 hour of ethics credit for the first afternoon program. The cost for the day is $25 for public interest lawyers.

Anyone wishing to attend should register here. If you have any questions, you can contact Anna Gavin, Events Coordinator of the Law School at

For more information contact Professor Regina Austin, Penn Law School, 3400 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA, 215-898-5185 or