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February 6, 2012

Court Funding Crisis, Responsibility of Profession Common Themes in Remarks Before the ABA House of Delegates


During the House of Delegates gathering at the Midyear Meeting in New Orleans, an array of high-level speakers addressed the policy-making body of the ABA.

In welcoming House delegates to New Orleans, Mayor Mitch Landrieu stressed that lawyers are the protectors of liberty.  He also spoke about the tension that the Founding Fathers created:  for every right, there is a correlating responsibility.  We become less if we do not have a debate about those rights and responsibilities. That debate should be passionate but also civil, Landrieu continued.

ABA President Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III talked about the issue of court underfunding.  This is a crisis that harms our clients, soils our economic recovery and is a detriment to our liberty, Robinson stated.  The ABA is building bridges around the topic—including to business, and organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce and The Federalist Society.  Robinson wrapped up his comments by informing the House that President-Elect Laurel Bellows and President-Elect Designee James Silkenat have committed to continuing the fight for adequate funding.

Eric T. Washington, president of the Conference of Chief Justices, raised the need for civics education in our schools, in order to ensure that our youth understand the court’s role in democracy.  He also cautioned against allowing fiscal or rhetorical circumstances—such as charges against judges who make unpopular rulings—to interfere with constitutional protections.

James R. Silkenat, ABA president-elect designee

James R. Silkenat, ABA president-elect designee

James R. Silkenat, ABA president-elect designee, talked about his “extraordinary ambition” for the association as a whole, while citing minor ambitions for himself personally during his presidential term.  He laid out initial plans for the issues on which he will focus.  They include: continuing the efforts of his predecessors on the state court funding crisis; addressing the transformation of legal education; improving access to justice through utilizing the skills of lawyers and law students; and improving the association’s ability to serve clients better and diversity in the profession.

Former ABA President Carolyn B. Lamm updated the House of Delegates on the work of the Commission on Ethics 20/20, noting that lawyers don’t get to choose what technologies develop, and that the association cannot ignore what is going on in other countries in the legal and regulatory arenas.  What we can do is update our rules and regulations to respond to these changes, continued Lamm.

In addition to speeches, the House adopted more than two dozen new policies.