Annual Meeting

ABA members convene in Denver for 2023 annual meeting

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Denver is hosting the 2023 ABA Annual Meeting. (Image from Shutterstock.)

When Fred Gray accepts the ABA Medal at the 2023 ABA Annual Meeting in Denver this week, he plans to share some of the lessons he learned through decades of working to protect the civil rights of Black Americans in the South.

Black and white photo of a young Fred Gray holding up a diagram of seats on a busIn 1956, Fred Gray won Browder v. Gayle, the case that desegregated the bus system in Montgomery, Alabama. (Photo by Don Cravens/Getty Images.)

Gray, who is 92 and still practices with Gray, Langford, Sapp, McGowan, Gray, Gray & Nathanson in Montgomery and Tuskegee, Alabama, was the lawyer for Rosa Parks, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which began the modern civil rights movement. He later represented marchers involved in the Selma to Montgomery March and helped desegregate the bus system in Montgomery, Alabama, and school systems around his entire state.

“I ended up deciding I was going to become a lawyer and be a lawyer in Alabama, where everything was completely segregated,” says Gray, who will receive the ABA Medal during the General Assembly at 4:30 p.m. Saturday. (All times are provided in Mountain Time.) “I was going to destroy everything segregated I could find, and I’m glad I was able to do some of that.

“To be able to receive the highest award from the largest organization of lawyers in the world is indeed an honor for which I am most grateful and appreciative.”

Fred Gray and Joe BidenFred Gray received the Medal of Freedom from President Joseph Biden in 2022. (Photo by Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images.)

The 2023 ABA Annual Meeting runs from Wednesday, Aug. 2, through Tuesday, Aug. 8, at the Colorado Convention Center. In addition to the General Assembly, one of its signature events, the association offers a full slate of special programs, panel discussions, governance meetings and social gatherings at the meeting headquarters and other locations downtown. An ABA press release is here.

Among other ceremonies, the Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service will present its Pro Bono Publico Awards at 5:30 p.m. Friday. Charlie Phillips, who works on pro bono emeritus status in the Roanoke, Virginia, office of Blue Ridge Legal Services; Karen King, a partner of Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello in New York City; David Cross, a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of Morrison & Foerster; and Ned Pillersdorf, managing partner of Pillersdorf Law Offices in Prestonsburg, Kentucky; will be honored for their commitment to providing legal services to individuals who are low-income and disadvantaged. This year’s law firm recipient is Davis Wright Tremaine, which is based in Seattle.

Follow along with the ABA Journal’s coverage of the 2023 ABA Annual Meeting here.

Also at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, the Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence will award Beth Posner, a clinical professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law, the Sharon L. Corbitt Award for exceptional service and leadership. The commission will also award Melissa Pope, chief judge for the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi Tribal Court, the Judith S. Kaye Award for judicial excellence.

John EchohawkJohn Echohawk is receiving the Thurgood Marshall Award at a dinner reception on Saturday. (Photo courtesy of the Native American Rights Fund.)

On Saturday, the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice will present the Thurgood Marshall Award to John Echohawk, the executive director of the Native American Rights Fund, during a dinner celebration beginning at 7:30 p.m. The award recognizes long-term contributions by members of the legal profession to the advancement of civil rights, social justice and human rights. Tickets are $200 and can be purchased when registering for the annual meeting.

At 3 p.m. Sunday, the Commission on Women in the Profession will honor five recipients of its Margaret Brent Awards, which are presented to female lawyers for their accomplishments and support of other women in the legal profession. The recipients are: Hawaii Supreme Court Justice Sabrina McKenna; Melissa Murray, a professor at the New York University School of Law; Yvette Ostolaza, a partner at Sidley Austin in Dallas and chair of the firm’s management committee; Deborah Willig, managing partner of Willig, Williams & Davidson in Philadelphia; and Jill Wine-Banks, an Evanston, Illinois-based MSNBC contributor, podcast host and author. Tickets are $75.

Other special events at the 2023 ABA Annual Meeting include the President’s Reception, hosted by ABA President Deborah Enix-Ross at 6 p.m. on Saturday. It will be held at Coors Field, home of Denver’s professional baseball team, the Colorado Rockies.

The President’s Reception will be held at Coors Field on Saturday. (Photo by Kit Leong/Shutterstock.)

ABA’s annual meeting offers insight into top issues for legal profession

The Board of Governors will meet Friday to discuss the association’s business matters, and the House of Delegates will take up more than 50 proposed resolutions and amendments during its meetings Monday and Tuesday. The association’s official policymaking body is expected to consider a multitude of legal and justice issues, including access to abortion care, attorneys’ practice in federal court and diversity in Continuing Legal Education panels.

Merrick Garland's official DOJ portraitU.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland is scheduled to address the ABA House of Delegated on Monday.

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland will address the House on Monday (at a time yet to be announced). The House is also sponsoring a roundtable discussion, “The Next Battleground: State Constitutions and Individual Rights,” at 11 a.m. Monday. California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger, Chief Judge Jeffrey Sutton of the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Yale University law professor Akhil Amar and University of Michigan law professor Evan Caminker will explore recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions and state constitutions and individual rights.

The 2023 ABA Annual Meeting also features the CLE Showcase, which includes seven Continuing Legal Education sessions on emerging trends in the legal profession.

Starting at 3 p.m. Thursday, “The Roberts Court 2022-2023: College Admissions, Student Loans and the Election Clause” examines key cases of the Supreme Court’s latest term.

Friday’s programs include “From Cradleboard to Shallow Grave: Boarding Schools, ICWA and Missing & Murdered Indigenous Persons,” which begins at 9 a.m., and highlights policies and programs that have harmed Indigenous people as well as possible solutions.

Also on Friday, “Autism Awareness: How Courts Can Improve Access to Justice for a Vulnerable and Neuro-Diverse Population” delves into issues professionals in the courts may encounter with individuals who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. This panel begins at 2 p.m.

“Bar-b-q, Wedding Cakes and Websites: The First Amendment versus Anti-Discrimination Laws” begins at 9 a.m. Saturday. Its panelists plan to discuss the Supreme Court’s decision in 303 Creative v. Elenis and its potential impact on free speech rights in commercial settings and enforceability of public accommodation nondiscrimination laws.

ABA members can attend all seven CLE Showcase programs as well as other entity CLE sessions by paying the $495 all-access fee; that fee is $695 for nonmembers and $95 for law students. All-access registration also includes the President’s Reception, General Assembly and governance meetings.

Standard registration, which does not include CLE programs, is $175 for members and $375 for nonmembers. Limited registration, which does not include CLE programs or the President’s Reception, is $115 for members and $325 for nonmembers.

Additional registration information and the full event schedule can be found on the 2023 ABA Annual Meeting website.

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