Annual Meeting

Our goals and motto call on us to fight implicit bias, says ABA President-elect Brown


Paulette Brown addresses the ABA House of Delegates in
her role of president-elect. Photo by Kathy Anderson.

Next year, Paulette Brown will become the first woman of color to be president of the ABA. In her speech to the ABA House of Delegates Tuesday morning as the ABA’s new president-elect, Brown urged adherence to the ABA’s four goals and its motto.

Brown, a partner at Edwards Wildman Palmer in Morristown, N.J., listed the ABA’s goals:

• Serve our members.

• Improve our profession.

• Eliminate bias and enhance diversity.

• Advance the rule of law.

And the motto: “Defending Liberty, Pursuing Justice.”

“What does this mean to us, and how do we make these ideals real?” Brown asked.


Paulette Brown is embraced by family members
after her speech. Photo by Kathy Anderson.

Brown emphasized how the goals call on members to fight implicit bias in the criminal justice system. As an example of implicit bias, she pointed out how in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, whites out on the streets were described as foraging for supplies while African-Americans were described as looters.

She then gave examples of issues that deserve to be addressed with those principles in mind: Two defendants in the same court with the same judge receive different sentences for similar crimes, based on physical characteristics. She also decried discriminatory school discipline policies, in which schools are expelling—or even criminally charging—minority students at greater rates, “interrupting the pipeline to becoming a lawyer.”

“Our goals and motto require us to do something,” Brown said.

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