Time to Reflect, Then Back to Work
New year brings new opportunities for pursuing the advancement of justice
Posted Jan 1, 2008 5:15 PM CST
By William H. Neukom
The holidays have passed and the new year has begun. This is a time to reflect on the year behind us and to look forward to the year ahead. The American Bar Association accomplished much in 2007 and enters 2008 with a full head of steam, ready to advance justice in various ways.
In the last few months, the ABA tallied some important victories for the justice system and the legal profession through our Governmental Affairs Office in Washington, D.C.
In September, Congress passed and the president signed the College Cost Reduction and Access Act, which addresses one of our profession’s and our communities’ worst problems. Due to daunting law school debt—often on top of substantial undergraduate debt—many law school graduates turn away from public service work. Our government, justice system and civil society suffer from this talent drain. This law retires most or all of a borrower’s federal student loan debt following 10 years of qualifying public service.
BUILDING ON SUCCESSES
The ABA is also helping to pass the Second Chance Act, a bipartisan crime prevention effort that will help ex-offenders transition back into their communities. The measure will provide funds to community-based organizations for job training, housing assistance and other support for ex-offenders so they can play a constructive and productive role in their communities.
We continue to work with a coalition of organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, to protect the attorney-client privilege and work product doctrine from harmful federal policies that pressure companies to waive their privilege during government investigations.
This fall, the House of Representatives displayed leadership when it showed support for the Attorney-Client Privilege Protection Act, and we will work with leaders in the Senate this year to make this critical legislation law.
Despite these successes, we still have much more work to do to advance justice. As always, the ABA will lead efforts to secure adequate funds for legal aid, as well as sufficient salaries for federal judges, the prolonged absence of which has contributed to the erosion of the rule of law in our country. We also will continue to call for the proper balance between liberty and security on issues such as the legal rights of detainees, torture and warrantless wiretapping.
This fall, we witnessed a direct assault on the rule of law in Pakistan. Pervez Musharraf suspended Pakistan’s constitution and disbanded its supreme court to defend his claim to power. When thousands of Pakistani lawyers walked to court in protest, Musharraf had many of them violently arrested.
The ABA immediately called on Musharraf to restore Pakistan’s constitution, reinstate the supreme court, and release those lawyers wrongly jailed. We led more than 600 lawyers on a walk to the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., to show solidarity with our colleagues and to renew our call for justice. We also presented the Pakistan Embassy with a petition signed by thousands of lawyers.
Dozens of bar associations in the United States and around the world took similar steps to show that the legal profession is united in its support for the rule of law.
As we begin this new year, I resolve to continue to oppose breaches of the rule of law in the U.S., in Pakistan and wherever else they may occur. When the rule of law breaks down, everyone in a community suffers. Lawyers must lead efforts to advance justice, as Pakistan’s lawyers did. In 2008, we will remember their brave defense of the rule of law and rededicate ourselves to advancing justice.