Posted Nov 01, 2007 07:39 am CDT
The American Bar Endowment (ABE) was established in 1942 to acquire, preserve, and distribute funds contributed by lawyers, “… who desire to leave a part of money accumulated from their practice … for the future benefit of those who follow in their footsteps and [for] the public. …” (ABA Ways and Means Committee, 1940)
Over the more than 60 years since its creation, the ABE has grown beyond the expectations of its original visionaries. ABE Vice President Roderick Mathews explains, “Since our founding in 1942, the ABE has donated more than $217 million to fund research, public service and educational projects in the legal profession. Our donations this year to the ABA Fund for Justice and Education (FJE) and the American Bar Foundation (ABF) mean these organizations will continue to undertake important legal research that improves justice for all of us while supporting legal scholarship funds, programs for the elderly, children and the disabled.”
In 2007-2008, ABE grants to the FJE and ABF will total more than $7.4 million—split equally between both entities. ABE is able to make significant grants to both organizations through the contribution of ABA members’ dividends that accrue on ABE-sponsored insurance plans. Members who purchase ABE plans are encouraged to donate available insurance dividends to the ABE as a charitable contribution. Members are then eligible for a tax deduction on their individual income tax returns. ABE sponsors term life, disability income and retirement contribution disability, excess major medical, accidental death and dismemberment, hospital indemnity, and office overhead insurance plans for ABA members. Because member donated dividends support more than 200 FJE and ABF projects, the ABE truly sponsors insurance that makes a difference by allowing members to GET quality insurance from a trusted source and GIVE back though their donation of available dividends–that’s the ABE difference!
“Our mission is to help strengthen the justice system and educate the public about the role of law in our society. The grant we receive from the ABE every year is critical in helping us achieve our mission,” said William H. Neukom, President of the ABA, while speaking about ABE grants to the FJE.
Indeed, FJE-funded programs address a wide range of issues facing society today, from domestic violence to the legal problems of the elderly, to children in need. The FJE supports programs that directly serve the legal profession, including professional responsibility, and programs that enable the legal profession to serve the public, such as Law Day, the ABA Center for Pro Bono, and projects that provide legal assistance to those in need.
Two FJE-funded programs that impact our communities are the Commission on Homelessness and Poverty and the Council on Racial and Ethnic Justice.
To combat the distressing issue of homelessness in the United States, the Commission on Homelessness and Poverty was established to help educate the public and the profession about the realities of this social epidemic. With the FJE’s support (made possible partly by the generous dividend donations of ABE members), the Commission continuously conducts training sessions, provides technical assistance, and produces publications that educate and inspire lawyers to tackle one of society’s most disadvantaged populations.
Hurricane Katrina devastated the lives of thousands of individuals in August 2005, displacing nearly one million people and battering some of the poorest and most vulnerable regions in America.
Demonstrating its commitment to eliminating racial and ethnic bias from our justice system, the ABA Council on Racial and Ethnic Justice, which receives funding from the ABE grant through the FJE, established a Katrina Committee to work in conjunction with the Association’s Hurricane Katrina Task Force. One of the Committee’s accomplishments was a program entitled “Racial & Ethnic Equity for Victims of Katrina,” which helped educate lawyers and addressed the disparate treatment received by underprivileged communities in the midst and aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
ABF Director Robert Nelson noted, “The grant that the ABE provides to the ABF—which makes up almost 75% of the total ABF revenue—makes it possible to do the kind of objective, independent and rigorous research that is vital to the concerns of the legal profession and system of justice it seeks to serve. ABE grant support has built the ABF into the leading research institute for the empirical study of law.”
The ABF is conducting research of unmatched scale and quality on crucial issues such as how civil juries actually decide cases; how ordinary citizens view the legitimacy of police conduct during traffic stops and whether these attitudes vary by race, ethnicity, and the history of policing in a given locale; the scope and character of the genocide taking place in Darfur; and what is the relationship between the rule of law and economic, social and political development.
Among the ABF’s research projects that receives support from the ABE through the grant to ABF is “The Procedural Attack on Civil Rights: Analyzing the Empirical Reality of Buckhannon for the Private Attorney General.” The project found that the Supreme Court’s decision in Buckhannon Board & Care Home, Inc. v. West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, has had a significant negative impact in the public interest law practice in the United States. In Buckhannon the Supreme Court rejected the “catalyst” theory for recovery of attorneys’ fees in civil rights enforcement actions. In so ruling, the Court majority voiced skepticism about the practical impact of such a change in rules on fee shifting.
The data shows that organizations which take on such classic public interest cases are the most likely to report negative consequences resulting from Buckhannon and conclude that the Buckhannon decision represents a relatively invisible, but still significant, attack on private rights enforcement.
In 2006, the ABE completed a rigorous long-range planning process. During this process, the ABE used various tools to determine the most effective ways to communicate with ABA members to ensure that they are aware of the plans ABE sponsors and how the funds generated are used.
To lend direction to these new goals, the ABE constructed a vision statement: Making a difference by funding programs that advance the American justice system and the rule of law. A mission statement was created to help guide the daily operations of the ABE: To generate funds for the support of law-related public service, educational, and research programs by building and sustaining the Legal Legacy Fund and by sponsoring insurance and other programs for the legal profession that encourage charitable giving.
The leadership and staff of the ABE are enthusiastic about the challenging, yet attainable, goals that will ensure that ABE will be a source of insurance and charitable giving for ABA members for the next sixty years.
To more completely fulfill the insurance needs of ABA members, the ABE created the American Bar Insurance Plan Consultants, Inc. (ABI)—a wholly-owned, for-profit subsidiary. ABI complements the ABE-sponsored insurance by offering plans such as Long-Term Care, Automotive/ Homeowners, Health Insurance Consulting, and Employment Practices Liability. This year, ABI also completed a long-range plan. ABI President William Falsgraf said, “The ABI is proud of the hard work and results that came from our long-range plan. With new initiatives and a revitalization of current efforts, we will improve the quality of our communication efforts with ABA members.” For more information about the ABI and its insurance products, please call 1-800-445-9862, or visit www.abiins.com
If you are not one of the certificate holders receiving peace of mind from ABE-sponsored insurance, we invite you to learn more by calling us at 1-800-621-8981, or visit our Web site at www.abendowment.org.
If you already have the security that comes with ABE-sponsored insurance, we thank you for continuing to donate your insurance dividends. As you have read, your contribution supports projects that serve all members of the legal profession. When you GET and GIVE, that’s insurance that makes a difference—that’s the ABE difference!