Midyear Meeting

Rule of law defense is needed amid ‘storm clouds’ at home and abroad, says ABA President Reginald Turner

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Reginald Turner

ABA President Reginald Turner addressed the ABA House of Delegates during the last day of the 2022 ABA Midyear Meeting. The meeting was held remotely because of coronavirus concerns.

While ABA President Reginald M. Turner remains hopeful the sun is rising on the rule of law, he told the ABA House of Delegates on Monday that “storm clouds increasingly appear on the landscape.”

These clouds include forces throughout the globe “promoting lawlessness, corruption, and attacks on democratic governance, threatening hard-won fundamental rights and freedoms.”

What gives Turner hope amid the storm is the important work lawyers do and his conviction the organized bar is needed more than ever to defend liberty and deliver justice.

“You fortify our defense of the rule of law here at home, and shine a beacon for lawyers and people everywhere who yearn for freedom,” he said during his speech to the ABA House of Delegates at the all-virtual 2022 ABA Midyear Meeting.

Turner said he recognizes that ABA members want and need the association to play a leadership role in advancing justice and the rule of law. This work includes education and advocacy efforts on public policy issues essential to basic rights and freedoms under law, with the most fundamental right being the right to vote freely and fairly.

“We oppose any barriers to fair and open elections and any subversion of the voting process,” Turner said. “Unfounded attacks on our election systems, processes and officials undermine public trust in elections and our duly elected leaders. Through advocacy, education and the policies adopted by this House, the ABA will continue to lead in this area.”

Turner also expressed concern about opinion polls indicating an unprecedented number of Americans from a variety of political leanings believe that violence is a reasonable way to address grievances and spark change.

“Such forces seriously undermine the values the ABA and our profession stand for, including the peaceful resolution of disputes with due process for all, the right to protest peacefully, and the peaceful transfer of power following free and fair elections,” he said.

Follow along with the ABA Journal’s coverage of the 2022 ABA Midyear Meeting here.

The ABA president focused his speech on international issues as well, saying that people overseas are looking to the ABA for guidance and support. They are also looking to Americans to wear “our single garment of destiny,” said Turner, referring to a line from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter From a Birmingham Jail.”

For example, Ukrainian legal leaders took time in recent weeks to seek ways to build on collaborative rule-of-law projects with the ABA, according to Turner. This comes as Ukraine faces the possibility of a Russian invasion.

Additionally, in response to requests from Afghans and concerns raised by ABA members, groups throughout the ABA are working to help legal professionals and others safely evacuate Afghanistan. The ABA’s Afghanistan Response Project also includes efforts to train pro bono lawyers to help with asylum and resettlement efforts.

“America’s lawyers have also rightly turned their attention to the desperate efforts of refugees to leave Afghanistan and the remaining dangers for all who worked there to build a more just society,” Turner said.

As for China, Turner said the Communist Party of China is working to redefine the rule of law, but lawyers across the globe are standing up to such efforts.

“The ABA is taking full advantage of the opportunities we have earned to partner with allied legal organizations; decry attacks on lawyers; and proclaim our steadfast commitment to an independent judiciary and legal profession, as I did at the recent virtual opening of the legal year in Hong Kong,” he said.

Turner ended his speech on an optimistic note that was in part a call to action.

“Our commitment, our work, and our leadership strengthen our profession, enhance our professional lives, and preserve the rights and freedoms of Americans and people everywhere,” Turner said. “What we do is more important than ever.”

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