Annual Meeting

Military Stars Shine at ABA Opening Assembly

Video of Robinson's speech courtesy of

Updated: In a special ceremony at Saturday evening’s opening assembly, ABA President Wm T. (Bill) Robinson III presented citations to The Judge Advocate General of each U.S. military service.

Robinson, the member-in-charge of the Florence, Ky., office of Frost Brown Todd, said he was so pleased to have all five TJAGs in attendance at the opening assembly. “And it’s especially gratifying that all five TJAGS are members of the ABA.”

TJAG is short for The Judge Advocate General.

Receiving presidential citations for 2012 were Lt. Gen. Richard Harding of the Air Force; Lt. Gen. Dana Chipman of the Army; Rear Adm. Frederick Kenney of the Coast Guard; Maj. Gen. Vaughn Ary of the Marine Corps; and Vice Adm. Nanette DeRenzi, who became The Judge Advocate General of the Navy on July 20.

Looking on was Jack L. Rives, who was The Judge Advocate General of the Air Force before becoming the ABA’s executive director in 2010.

The citations reflect the closer working relationship that has been developing between the ABA and the military’s legal community on a number of fronts in recent years. “The American military defends and protects our constitutional democracy,” said Robinson after the ceremony. “The ABA can never adequately express our respect and appreciation for our military, but we will continue to try to show that appreciation. I was gratified by the immediate standing ovation and the extended expression of enthusiasm from everyone in attendance when we introduced the TJAGS.”


The ABA Annual Meeting opening assembly, at Chicago’s Symphony Center, featured the Chicago Mass Choir. Photo by Kathy Anderson

The presentation of certificates followed Robinson’s remarks, which called on members of the bar to advocate for court funding. Praising the work of the Task Force on the Preservation of the Justice System for its work raising awareness of the issues, he noted that the work is far from complete. It’s up to the bar to “explain to the American people what our courts do and why they matter.”

“We would not consider closing a police station or a firehouse or a hospital emergency room one day a week for lack of funds. And our courts should be no different,” he said. “Our courts are democracy’s emergency room, the one safe place to seek custody of a child, request a protective order from an abusive spouse, fight foreclosure of a home or protect a small business.”

Yet, he added, the judiciary isn’t a powerful interest group that can marshal voters and advocate for change. “We as lawyers can make a difference. We need to make a difference,” he said.

Three others were given presidential citations:

Thomas Z. Hayward Jr., chair of the ABA Chicago and Washington, D.C., Space Committee, was recognized for securing prime office space for the association in both cities. In addition to the citation, one of the conference rooms at the ABA’s Chicago headquarters in will be named in his honor.

Mary McQueen, president of the National Center for State Courts, was recognized for her efforts in the ABA’s initiative addressing the state court funding crisis. McQueen has also served as co-chair of the ABA Justice is the Business of Government Task Force. “Mary and the NCSC have been critical partners with the ABA in helping to promote a national dialogue about the plight of our underfunded state and federal justice systems,” Robinson said.

Wal-Mart Stores general counsel Walter Sutton also received a presidential certificate for his dedication to diversity and inclusion. Within the ABA, Sutton has served in numerous positions over the years, most recently as a member of the American Bar Foundation and the Diversity Center. “Not only has he actively participated in the work of ABA groups, but he has set an example by valuing diversity in society,” Robinson said.

Last updated Aug. 9 to add coverage of additional presidential citations.

We welcome your comments, but please adhere to our comment policy and the ABA Code of Conduct.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.