New law show one of a kind

By Erin Kelley

Of the 193 law schools in the country, the University’s is the only one to have their own TV show on a commercial channel. The show, “Illinois Law,” was launched March 5 on WCIA at 10 a.m. and will air every other Sunday until May 14.

Dave Johnson, assistant dean of communications in the school of law and the innovator behind the show, said the concept made sense with the increased interest the public has with law.

“When you look at the DI and take away all the local stories, eight of the top ten stories deal with legal issues,” Johnson said.

He said the general public is fascinated with law, which is apparent from popular TV shows currently being filmed in the courtroom. Johnson said he is hoping to give viewers a perspective on relevant legal issues and educate with civic lessons as well as promote the college, faculty and alumni.

“It is a very bold move to have a TV show on a commercial channel,” Johnson said.

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“Illinois Law” is a 30-minute talk show that will discuss a variety of legal issues between the school’s faculty, alumni and Amy Gajda, the host and an assistant professor in journalism and law. Gajda said she was thrilled when Johnson approached her with the project.

“It has always been a dream of mine to have a TV show that discusses law,” she said.

Gajda said the show is trying to keep the topics as timely as possible. The first episode, titled “Judges,” discussed the recent Supreme Court nominations as well as how judges are chosen and what the public should expect from them.

Larry Ribstein, professor of law, was one of the guests on the first show because of his recent blog at In the entry, Ribstein projected that Justice Samuel Alito would be selected as the next Supreme Court judge two days before his nomination. The blog picked up by several papers across the country, including the Wall Street Journal. Ribstein said his blog was about the business aspect of Alito’s rulings unlike the appointment process that focused on other facts.

The episode was divided into three segments: The first part was centered on the recent nominations in the Supreme Court, the second part centered on judicial behavior and the last part was a civics lesson that explained how courts work, Johnson said. The guests included Ribstein, College of Law Professor Larry Solum and Peter Nardulli, head of the political science department.

Johnson said Solum was asked to participate because he is an expert of judicial behavior and Nardulli has done work on judicial politics. Also included on the guest list were U.S. Federal Magistrate Judge David Bernthal and Sixth Judicial Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Ford, both Illinois College of Law graduates.

Gajda said the show is aimed at lawyers as well as the general public.

The show goes beyond targeting people interested in law, Johnson said. He hopes to reach a wide range of people because there are so many issues that affect everyone regardless of demographics. He said does not believe they will ever run out of ideas. Gajda said the show may eventually take topic suggestions from the public.

After its hiatus over the summer, the show will return to air in the fall for a full season.