Annual Meeting

Take up today's challenges as we have in the past, new ABA President William Hubbard urges


William Hubbard. Photo by ©Kathy Anderson.

William C. Hubbard accepted the gavel as the new president of the ABA, and quickly set about exhorting the House of Delegates and all lawyers to follow the courage of those who pushed for the rule of law with Magna Carta in 1215, of those who crafted our Constitution in Philadelphia in 1787, and of four still-living, long-term ABA members who courageously battled for freedom, equality and civil rights.

On the heels of Chief Justice John Roberts’ speech earlier Monday about Magna Carta’s influence on our justice system, Hubbard picked up the theme and said: “As we reflect on our democracy, we do not need to limit ourselves to the inspiring words and bold deeds of centuries ago.”

Hubbard provided details about four ABA members who showed courage and provide more recent inspiration:

• Mortimer Caplin, 98, who joined the association in 1951. Caplin was a Navy lieutenant leading a landing party at Omaha Beach in World War II. He ordered a ship captain to run aground to unload much-needed ammunition, but that effort was unavailing. Caplin invoked the name of a fictitious general and got the ammo. Caplin founded the law firm Caplin & Drysdale.

• William T. Coleman, an ABA member since 1948, was counsel to Thurgood Marshall in the Brown v. Board of Education case 60 years ago and was under enormous pressure when they appeared at the U.S. Supreme Court.

• Vernon Jordan, an ABA member for 50 years, was six months out of law school in 1961 when he was on the legal team that got two African-American students admitted to the University of Georgia and escorted one of them past a screaming mob to enter school.

• Marcia Greenberger gave up a lucrative position in Caplin’s law firm 40 years ago to become the first woman lawyer working full-time on women’s legal issues, which led to the creation of in the National Women’s Law Center.

“These are just a few of the lawyer-leaders who took bold action when faced with the biggest challenges of their time,” Hubbard said.

Hubbard’s signature effort during the year will be work flowing from the Commission on the Future of Legal Services. For that, he wants to bring lawyers, judges and academics together with technology innovators who are spending millions of dollars on finding new ways of providing legal services. “We must marry this creativity with our own justice system to provide greater access while protecting the public,” he said.

Hubbard noted several of today’s challenges he intends to emphasize, such as a criminal justice system that is breaking down fiscally and unsustainable, the imprisonment of too many low-level offenders; the need for more pro bono representation for victims of domestic violence; the dumping of the mentally ill into prisons; and the balance between privacy and security.

“All of these issues clamor for our attention and rational evidence-based solutions,” Hubbard said.

See also:

ABA Journal: “New ABA President William Hubbard wants to close legal services delivery gap for poor”

Updated to correct Mortimer Caplin’s age. He is 98.

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