Lyle Denniston Wins First Outstanding Journalist in Law Award Presented by Burton Awards Program


May 9, 2014

New York, New York: The Burton Awards program, run in association with the Library of Congress, announced that veteran journalist Lyle Denniston is the winner of the first “Outstanding Journalist in Law Award.” Mr. Denniston was selected by the Outstanding Journalist in Law Committee based on his integrity and having a great impact on legal journalism. This year marks the fifteenth anniversary of the non-profit program, which will be held on June 9, 2014 at the Library of Congress.

Lyle Denniston has covered the Supreme Court for fifty-six years. During that time, he reported on one-quarter of all Justices who ever sat on the nation’s highest court. He has been a journalist for sixty-six years, beginning that career with the Nebraska City News-Press in Nebraska City, Nebraska, in the fall of 1948. He is the author of The Reporter and The Law: Techniques of Covering the Courts, a book that is still in wide use in newsrooms and in academic journalism. Mr. Denniston has taught and lectured widely at colleges and universities. He has had newspaper careers that included reporting duties with his hometown newspaper, the News Press, and with the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal, the Wall Street Journal, Baltimore Sun, and Boston Globe, and currently (since (2004) has been the lead reporter for, an online clearinghouse for news about the U.S. Supreme Court. Mr. Denniston also writes for Constitution Daily, the online blog of the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, and serves as the Center’s adviser on constitutional literacy. He is a member of the Hall of Fame of the Washington chapter of the Society for Professional Journalists (Sigma Delta Chi).

Mr. Denniston is a graduate cum laude of the University of Nebraska, and has a master’s degree in American history and political science from the Georgetown University in Washington. He is married to Pamela Haughton-Denniston, a retired attorney in Washington. He has three sons.

Lyle Denniston was selected by the Chair, Roy Gutterman, Director, Tully Center for Free Speech and Associate Professor at the S.I. Newhouse School, Syracuse University; he was joined by committee members Mark Obbie, freelance writer and editor specializing in legal affairs journalism, and Toni Loci, a journalism professor at Washington and Lee University.

William C. Burton, Founder and Chair of The Burton Awards for Legal Achievement said: “The new award in journalism brings an added dimension to our award program. It is a natural adjunct. The art of journalism incorporates the finest style and techniques of writing and ensures clarity, conciseness, accuracy and fairness. Mr. Denniston possesses all these enviable attributes.”


The Burton Awards, established in 1999, is funded by the Burton Foundation, a non-profit, academic effort devoted to recognizing and rewarding excellence in the legal profession. The Burton Awards was established to honor the finest accomplishments in law, including writing, reform, public service and interest, regulatory innovation, and lifetime achievements in the profession.


This prominent institution is one of the most celebrated and distinguished libraries in the world. It was established on April 24, 1800, and since that time has grown to become one of the largest repositories in history. The Library of Congress functions as both a national library and as the research arm of the U.S. Congress. It contains more than 32 million catalogued books and more than 62 million manuscripts.

WILLIAM C. BURTON, ESQ., Founder and Chair

The Founder and Chair of The Burton Awards for Legal Achievement is William C. Burton, Esq., a partner in the law firm of Sagat|Burton LLP. He is a former New York State Assistant Attorney General, a former New York State Assistant Special Prosecutor, and is the author of the first legal thesaurus ever written for the legal profession, entitled BURTON’S LEGAL THESAURUS. The book is now in its 5th edition and quickly approaching its 35th anniversary. When the book was released, the Association of American Publishers recognized it as “one of the Most Innovative and Creative Projects of the year.” In 2011, Mr. Burton was presented the highest honor given by the second largest association of law professors in America, The Legal Writing Institute. He was recognized for “significantly advancing the cause of legal writing in the profession of law.” More recently, he was awarded the “Blackstone Award” by the Friends of the Law Library of Congress, for “embodying and promoting the best ideals of the institution.”