ABA Journal

President's Letter

209 ABA Journal President's Letter articles.

Diversity of Viewpoints: Civility turns down heat, increases light to attain results

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan said at her 2010 confirmation hearing: “What I’ve learned most is that no one has a monopoly on truth or wisdom. I’ve learned that we make progress by listening to each other, across every apparent political or ideological divide.” It is especially important for the legal profession to promote and accept diverse viewpoints as it works to bridge the polarization and erosion of trust in our democratic institutions.

Civil legal aid shrinks the justice gap and makes the court system more equitable

The ABA has been a committed supporter of the Legal Services Corp. from its inception as well as all forms of civil legal aid. “Equal justice under law is not merely a caption on the façade of the Supreme Court building,” Justice Lewis Powell said in a 1976 speech to the ABA. “It is perhaps the most inspiring ideal of our society. It is one of the ends for which our entire legal system exists.”

Law Day Lessons: Civility, collaboration remain the answer to a better society

“As the legal community prepares to celebrate Law Day on May 1, we should look back on why this day exists,” writes ABA President Deborah Enix-Ross. “Law Day dates to the days of the Cold War, more than 60 years ago. … Today, as we struggle as a nation that often seems divided, Law Day is even more important.”

Gideon at 60: The right to a lawyer was established, but the promise of equal justice remains elusive

“Most Americans believe that access to an attorney during criminal proceedings is a foundational right in our country. But the right to have an attorney provided by the government has not always existed. Until 60 years ago, indigent defendants who could not afford an attorney had to defend themselves in court. But on March 18, 1963, that all changed. The U.S. Supreme Court rendered one of its most famous decisions in the case of Gideon v. Wainwright.”

Our Civic Sacrament: Voting and the people who make the process work must be protected and respected

“The American Bar Association is committed to fixing this growing problem of the erosion of election confidence. Through its Standing Committee on Election Law, the ABA, in a nonpartisan fashion, examines ways to improve the federal electoral process to permit the broadest, least restrictive access for all eligible Americans to the ballot box and to ensure all votes are counted,” writes ABA President Deborah Enix-Ross.

Agree to Disagree: Civics, civility and collaboration can guide us to a better society

“‘Agree to disagree’ is what lawyers do around negotiation tables every day. We do it in mediation, in arbitration and in courtrooms after a judge has heard both sides and issued a ruling. ‘Agree to disagree’ is what we should do in the big tent that encompasses the diversity of membership in the American Bar Association,” writes ABA President Deborah Enix-Ross.

Congress needs to enact legislation and provide funding to ensure the safety of our judges

A free, fair and unbiased judiciary is essential to the rule of law and a properly functioning democracy. But judges cannot do their jobs effectively if they are under attack or feel their families are being threatened.

ABA Survey of Civic Literacy shows people are in favor of protecting the right to vote

“The American Bar Association is constantly working to enhance the integrity and public perception of the electoral process in a nonpartisan fashion with policies promoting consistent and fair ballot-counting and a reduction in wait times to vote,” says ABA President Reginald Turner. “We all need to be confident that our votes matter. We all must work to preserve access to the ballot box for all who are eligible. We must keep the right to vote ‘the crown jewel of American liberties.’”

Law Schools’ Impact on Justice: U.S. legal education advances rule of law around the world

“World leaders getting a degree in the law should not be surprising. Many in key positions in corporations or media and many other professions have studied law. Leading a country is just another area in which the skills attained in law school can be beneficial,” writes ABA President Reginald Turner. “Our nation’s law schools have played and will continue to play their role, particularly when it comes to training foreign lawyers and educating potential world leaders. It is an often overlooked but vital component of U.S. efforts to foster an adherence to the rule of law throughout the world.”

A 1997 experience taught me the power of pro bono and the need to fight for equality

“Diversity, justice and equality are vitally important to our nation’s health. That’s why diversity, equity and inclusion are among the American Bar Association’s core goals. For attorneys, a professional obligation exists to pursue justice and equality, especially for vulnerable populations. And volunteering for pro bono work is one of the most fulfilling ways to do this.”

ABA calls on lawyers to join push to tackle the student debt crisis

Graduating from law school and starting a legal career should be an exciting and hopeful time. But for far too many, student debt causes apprehension and struggle.

ABA members need to tout value, importance of bar membership

“Membership is the lifeblood of our bar association,” says ABA President Reginald Turner. “That is why in the year ahead, I urge you all to make a habit of reaching out and mentoring young lawyers and law students by demonstrating how bar associations make us better lawyers and fulfilled citizens who make a difference.”

Our ‘calling’ demands more of us as lawyers in the public square

When we choose a career in the law, it is not about simply getting a job. It is a choice to join a learned, self-governing profession. We say a person is “called to the bar” because that is what law is—a calling. Part of that calling involves upholding and defending the rule of law, the principle that all of us are equal in the eyes of the law and no person is above the law.

Serving as a juror was an unexpected duty during my year as ABA president

“‘All rise for the jury’ is something I have heard scores of times as a trial lawyer. But this time, and for the first time, I heard them as a part of a jury,” writes ABA President Patricia Lee Refo.

Lawyers and the ABA are on front lines in protecting the bedrock of our democracy

While the rule of law has been the foundation of America since its birth, recent events and unprecedented attacks on our institutions underscore the need to remain vigilant about protecting it. The COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing racial injustice and attempts to disrupt the peaceful transfer of presidential power have all highlighted broader challenges around justice in America.

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