The 1990s produced a number of sensational criminal and civil trials. The media and public avidly followed the murder trials of O.J. Simpson and the Menendez brothers, the Oklahoma City bombing trials of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, and the trial of those charged in the World Trade Center bombing. Civil trials involving products liability, medical malpractice, environmental pollution; the civil trial of O.J. Simpson; Paula Jones's sexual harassment action against President Clinton; and the notorious antitrust case against Microsoft similarly captured the public's attention. Also, as might be expected, trial judges and the legal system generally grappled with questions concerning the effects of potentially harmful publicity on the administration of justice. Most of the attention naturally concerned the potential prejudicial effect of media coverage in criminal cases on the fair trial rights of the defendant. Even when the publicity is generated by the defense in criminal cases, however, there is concern for the effect of outside influences on the courtroom proceedings. Similarly, the potential for harmful publicity in civil cases, e.g., disclosure of trade secrets, private personal matters, or other confidential information, stimulates judicial and legislative concern.

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