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Bellows: ABA Should Be a Part of Public Debates

Posted Feb 14, 2011 2:21 PM CDT
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Laurel Bellows.
Archive photo.

ABA President-Elect Nominee Laurel Bellows told the ABA House of Delegates on Monday that the association should address the balance of individual liberties and national security in a more direct, forceful manner than it has in recent years.

The House will make Bellows’ selection as president-elect official in August during the annual meeting in Toronto. Bellows, who is managing partner of The Bellows Law Group in Chicago, will serve a year as president-elect starting at the close of the annual meeting; then, she will automatically begin her one-year term as president at the close of the 2012 annual meeting in Chicago.

Coming after a series of ABA presidents who have largely shunned issues beyond the core of the legal profession, Bellows’ speech to the House sounded a clarion call for the ABA to return to taking positions on matters of wide public debate.

“Our inalienable rights seem at odds with government intrusions into our liberties in order to protect our national security which is truly under attack, she said. “Fair and impartial judges are tossed off the bench because voters disagree with decisions grounded in law."

“I know there’s a lot to be said for staying out of policy debates—for the ABA to be only a trade association of lawyers, for lawyers," Bellows said. ”We know that since the earliest days of our Republic a prosperous legal profession has been the bulwark of our democracy."

But, she continued, "I don’t believe we live by bread alone. I believe that the mission of the ABA goes beyond making us better lawyers and helping us put bread on the table. Lawyers want us to speak out on matters that affect lawyers and issues that define us as Americans. For lawyers to matter and for this association to truly matter, our voice must be heard on the great issues, issues that affect the rights and liberties of all Americans.

“The tension between liberty and safety is real. I trust lawyers to search for the right balance between liberty and safety. We know the excesses of liberty, and we know the excesses of government authority. We know how to cut through rhetoric and articulate the pros and cons of complex issues so that all Americans can understand what is at stake.

“My vision for the ABA is that we lawyers do what we are trained to do. Let us take the lead in framing the debate on the great issues which affect the rights and liberties of all Americans," Bellows said.

Bellows served as chair of the association’s policymaking House of Delegates from 2006 to 2008, which is the second-highest elected office in the ABA. Bellows has also served as chair of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, and as a member of the ABA Board of Governors, where she chaired the Finance Committee. She was also the second female president of the 22,000-member Chicago Bar Association.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: President-Elect Candidate Bellows to Turn Attention to Jobless Lawyers

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