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May 4, 2010

Successful ABA Day Raises Profile of Access to Justice Issues on Capitol Hill

Rep. Diana DeGette meets with ABA members from Colorado

Rep. Diana DeGette meets with ABA members from Colorado

In an effort to promote issues relating to access to justice, hundreds of bar leaders from around the nation came to Washington, D.C., for ABA Day in April to meet their congressional delegations, including House and Senate leadership.

A visit with Rep. Walter Jones (NC)

Eugene Pridgen, president-elect of the North Carolina Bar, meets with Rep. Walter Jones

Specifically, state and local bar leaders, as well as leaders from specialty bars, spoke to their members of Congress about the importance of adequate funding for, and reauthorization of, Legal Services Corporation; fair tax treatment for victims of employment discrimination; and pay equity for women.

In addition to the scheduled Hill visits, ABA Day in Washington featured legislative training, issues briefings and other events.  While the association interacts with Congress and the executive branch on a daily basis, congressional visits by the constituent lawyers of senators and representatives are of critical importance and add extra weight in the support of or opposition to an issue.

Standing Committee on Governmental Affairs Chair Bill Robinson with Grassroots Award winner Judge Jodi Levine

Standing Committee on Governmental Affairs Chair Bill Robinson with Grassroots Award winner Judge Jodi Levine

ABA Governmental Affairs Office counsel and outside experts provided training webinars in advance of the event. Webinars focused on how to be an effective “citizen advocate” and offered background and key points regarding the ABA Day issues.  The webinars were made available to ABA section leaders and will be offered to a broader group of ABA members in the coming months.

On opening day of the meetings, ABA President Carolyn Lamm presented congressional awards to four members of Congress in appreciation for their efforts to improve the American justice system.  Honorees included:  Sens. Olympia Snowe and Richard Lugar and Reps. Steve Cohen and John Lewis.

During the three-day event, held April 20 – 22, ABA Day Grassroots Award winners were also announced.

ABA Day is organized by the ABA Governmental Affairs Office and cosponsored by the National Conference of Bar Presidents, National Association of Bar Executives, the ABA Section Officers Conference and the ABA Young Lawyers Division.