A Year of Service
Children, retirees and the rule of law benefit
Posted Aug 1, 2007 7:46 AM CDT
By Karen J. Mathis
This bar year has been built around two themes: service and the rule of law. It is in the nature of lawyers to serve, and it has been a privilege to see countless acts of dedication and service by our nation’s lawyers and judges for the past 365 days.
Starting in Honolulu at last year’s annual meeting, the ABA hosted an exciting roundtable, bringing together youths serving professionals from many fields.
It was the first of 20 such roundtables hosted by the ABA Commission on Youth at Risk, part of an ambitious program to make sure our laws, courts and other institutions suit the needs of America’s young people.
The commission has partnered with Girl Scouts of the USA and others to develop a conflict resolution and anti-violence program. Working with federal and ABA agencies, the commission also conducted the first systematic review of status offender policies in more than 30 years.
The commission has proposed a series of reforms in the foster care system. The ABA House of Delegates will consider recommendations calling on all states to adopt laws that provide housing, education and mental health assistance to the 20,000 children who “age out” of foster care each year.
Last February, the House of Delegates approved two important resolutions focusing on families of military personnel deployed in combat zones. One urged that states require companies to grant leave for nonparental custodians, such as grandparents, when needed to care for military children. Another urged the removal of any bureaucratic barriers that make it difficult for such children to attend the school best suited to their needs.
At the other end of the age spectrum, 400,000 of the current practicing lawyers will retire in the next 10-15 years. So the ABA established the Second Season of Service to help baby boom lawyers manage that transition.
This important initiative can be found at abanet.org/secondseason, which includes a state-by-state online matching service to help lawyers find pro bono and other volunteer activities.
The Youth at Risk and Second Season commissions made amazing progress on very difficult issues. It is extremely gratifying that these commissions will continue to exist during the coming bar year.
RIGHTS UNDER ATTACK
At the national level, the ABA continued its mission of “defending liberty and pursuing justice” and “speaking truth to power.” Working with a broad civil coalition, the ABA continued to seek repeal of destructive federal policies that pressure corporations to waive their attorney-client privilege.
Another right under attack is habeas corpus. The ABA has lobbied Congress to repeal a law enacted last year that prohibits federal courts from considering habeas corpus filings by detainees at Guantanamo. In February, the ABA led the nation’s lawyers in repudiating a Pentagon official’s comments when he urged companies to withhold their business from law firms whose lawyers provided detainees with pro bono representation.
The ABA has continued to actively promote the rule of law. After a successful November 2005 symposium in Washington, D.C., that brought together leaders from more than 40 nations, the ABA and the International Bar Association jointly sponsored a symposium last September in Chicago. This April, a third meeting produced six substantive white papers, and many of their findings will be presented to the House of Delegates in San Francisco.
In the coming year, ABA President-elect Bill Neukom will deepen and broaden this work through the World Justice Project.
The ABA has grown immeasurably since 100 lawyers from 21 states founded it in 1878. Today, the association’s reach and its values are truly global. I am proud to have served this association, and to have assisted its never-ending quest for justice for all. My special thanks go to our members who have answered the call to serve and to speak truth to power this year. God bless you.
The twelfth in a series of columns that discuss how the ABA and individual lawyers serve our nation and the law.