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August 8, 2011

“Continue to Get in the Way,” Urges ABA President Stephen N. Zack

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ABA Medal Bestowed to Boies and Olson, Court Funding Efforts Urged During ABA Session

Aug. 8, 2011

TORONTO — During his speech at the _ House of Delegates meeting today, outgoing President Stephen N. Zack urged lawyers to “continue to get in the way” of those who would defund Legal Services Corporation and Interest on Lawyers Trust Accounts; those who would do away with the four words in front of the Supreme Court, “Equal justice under law;” and from those who would do away with checks and balances by not funding the judiciary.

Zack’s comments arose from a question he recently received from a reporter, “Don’t lawyers just get in the way of things?”  Yes, lawyers do, said Zack, listing the so-called “wrongs” that lawyers get in the way of.  “Let’s continue to get in the way of ignorance,” said Zack.

The 566-member House also heard from Rosalie Silberman Abella, Supreme Court justice of Canada, who expressed sentiments similar to Zack’s.  Abella said that the ABA is a critical player in protecting the key institutions of justice, and encouraged its members to “Keep the justice flame luminous.”

After he received the ceremonial presidential gavel from Zack, incoming ABA President Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III spoke of the critical need to adequately fund state courts, noting that lawyers need to continue to assure a safe place for their clients.  But it’s not just professional, “it’s personal.”  Truly, “our constitutional democracy is at stake,” said Robinson.

During the first day of its meeting, the House adopted a resolution brought to the policy-making body by the Task Force on Preservation of the Justice System that urges states and localities to document the impact of funding cutbacks to the justice systems and recognize constitutional responsibilities to fund the justice system.

Co-chair of the task force, David Boies asserted that, “Without our courts, there is no justice. Without justice, there is no protection. … Everyone in this country is a constituent of the justice system.”

With Boies, task force Co-Chair Theodore B. Olson received the association’s highest honor, the ABA Medal.  In awarding the medal — for the first time given to two recipients concurrently — Zack noted that, while the association is giving the medal to two individuals, Boies and Olson stand for one principle. “They stand for honesty, integrity and civility.”  The need for civility within the profession, even when you disagree with your opponent, and respect, were echoed by Boies and Olson as they accepted the medal.

The House also acted on dozens of policy recommendations to be considered during its two-day session, which continues tomorrow; it will continue to its debate tomorrow.