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New Commission Aims to Improve Access to Justice for Fast-Growing Hispanic Population

Posted Oct 14, 2010 10:34 AM CDT
By Terry Carter

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The ABA’s new Commission on Hispanic Legal Rights and Responsibilities will look at how to improve access to the justice system for Hispanics but also at how to bring a deeper understanding of the culture of the rule of law to the nation’s biggest and fastest growing minority population, ABA President Stephen N. Zack said today at a news conference to launch the initiative.

Zack, a Cuban refugee who is the association’s first Hispanic-American president, emphasized the importance of bringing Hispanics in as players in the legal system along with improving access for all. While 20 percent of the population is Hispanic, they comprise fewer than 5 percent of the lawyers.

“Our profession and our judges and our professors and our students have to mirror our society, because if they don’t there will be a distrust of the rule of law,” Zack said at the news conference in the National Press Building in Washington, D.C.

The commission (PDF) is chaired by Cesar Alvarez, also a Cuban refugee and the executive chairman of Greenberg Traurig. Speaking after Zack, Alvarez told the news conference that the commission’s mission is to help insure Hispanics are treated fairly by the justice system but “we also have things that we can challenge our own community to be better at" as far as civic responsibility is concerned.

The commission will hold four public hearings around the country, beginning Nov. 12 in Chicago, with subsequent ones in California, New York and Texas. It will gather information and evidence concerning legal access for Hispanics, as well other criminal and civil justice issues, and make policy recommendations to be considered by the ABA House of Delegates.

Though the commission has a one-year life, Zack announced that his successor, ABA President-elect Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III, has agreed to continue the effort for another year.

Also see:

ABA Journal: "Minority Report: Hispanics must be integrated into our profession, our law schools and our courts"

ABANow: "ABA Launches First-Ever Hispanic Commission"

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