How to Fact Check Legal Issues in the News

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on August 21, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

It seems like every big news story has a legal angle. What are the limits for free speech when it comes to racism and public demonstrations? Can the president do anything he wants when it comes to immigration, and are courts allowed to stop him? What is a grand jury subpoena?

Knowing the nuts and bolts of the laws underlying these controversies may affect how we view them, but not all of us have law school degrees, so how do we assess the legal assertions made in news coverage of the biggest stories? Lucky for us, we have the American Bar Association, who just launched their Legal Fact Check website, designed to "separate legal fact from fiction."

Fact and Fiction

The site quotes late U.S. senator Daniel Moynihan, who said: "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts." But in the era of fake news, media bias, and everyone screaming on Facebook and Twitter, those facts can be hard to come by. Especially when the topics are as controversial (and potentially esoteric) as free speech, affirmative action, and the separation of governmental powers.

"In a world with multiple sources of information, it is often difficult to distinguish between fact and opinion," said new ABA president Hilarie Bass. "Through our new ABA Legal Fact Check, the American Bar Association will use case and statutory law and other legal precedents to help set the record straight by providing the real facts about the law."

While Legal Fact Check is still getting off the ground, it's already tackling topics like "whether individuals can be punished for burning the American flag" and "who has the constitutional authority to redraw U.S. Circuit Courts and offer explanations on the power of presidential pardons and hate speech." As it expands, the ABA's site will no doubt be one of the best resources for the legal background on the day's hot-button topics.

Until then, you can also peruse the pages of FindLaw's Learn About the Law section, as well as our Legal Blogs, which cover breaking news and backgrounds legal issues relating to criminal, personal injury, and small business law as well as everyday legal issues. And we can also put you in touch with a good lawyer should you need help.

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