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February 14, 2011

Keep Pushing for Justice: Rep. John Lewis’ Message for ABA House Members

Rep. John Lewis (D-GA)

Rep. John Lewis (D-GA)

On the final day of the _ Midyear Meeting, its House of Delegates adopted policy urging Congress to increase funding for Legal Services Corporation, supporting modifications in criminal justice sanctions, and addressing the growing problem of bullying, including cyberbullying.

The 560-member policymaking body also heard from Rep. John Lewis (Ga.), Texas Supreme Court Justice and President of the Conference of Chief Justices Wallace Jefferson, and ABA leaders.

In introducing Lewis, House Chair Linda Klein told of how Lewis fought against Jim Crow laws and was beaten for his support of civil rights.  After talking about the Voting Rights Act, Lewis stated, “If it hadn’t been for President Lyndon B. Johnson, lawyers and judges, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

Encouraging delegates to keep fighting for what is right, Lewis said, “You must never ever give up, must never give in, must keep pushing for justice.”  We are, after all, “One people, one family, one house.”  He concluded, “Every day, do what you can to create a more perfect union.”

Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice and President of the Conference of Chief Justices Wallace B. Jefferson, the first African-American justice and chief justice in that state, also addressed the House of Delegates.  He spoke about court funding and the crisis in the courts.  Prior to his addressing the delegation, he praised the ABA for adopting policy that would help state judiciaries recover debts owed to them through court-ordered financial obligations.

ABA President Stephen N. Zack

ABA President Stephen N. Zack

ABA President Stephen N. Zack emphasized the judicial crisis facing our nation today.  He also spoke about the need for civic education, and the importance of adequate funding of Legal Services Corporation.  Referencing victories such as the recent Red Flags Rule exemption as well as the continued full federal FDIC coverage of Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts, Zack also spoke of the value, vision and voice that the ABA brings to the legal profession and indeed the public.

Laurel Bellows, who was elected by her colleagues as president-elect nominee, reminded lawyers that they matter in part because they serve as a voice for those who otherwise would have no voice.  “The mission of our association goes beyond making us better lawyers,” said Bellows.  “We must go beyond that to speak out on great issues, issues those that affect the rights and liberties of all Americans.”

Finally, former ABA President Michael Greco rose to pay tribute to the former head of the association’s Governmental Affairs Office and director of the ABA’s Washington office, Robert D. Evans, who passed away in January of this year.  The House affirmed its support of a memorial resolution that the Board of Governors adopted earlier in the meeting.  The resolution noted, speaking of Evans, “He fulfilled the highest ideals and goals of the legal profession through his professionalism, integrity, expertise and dedication to justice and the rule of law.”

Transcript of Stephen Zack’s speech to the ABA House of Delegates.