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August 5, 2012

Sen. Lindsey Graham, ABA President Robinson Headline 2012 Opening Assembly

ABA President Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III

ABA President Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III

Sen. Lindsey Graham and _ President Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III urged lawyers to continue to push for an independent judiciary and access to justice, at the Opening Assembly of the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago.

Graham keynoted the Aug. 4 event at the historic Chicago Symphony Center, where he acknowledged the severe underfunding of America’s courts and emphasized the important voice of America’s lawyers in leading on access-to-justice issues.  Graham questioned, “If the ABA doesn’t speak out about access to justice, who will?”

Robinson, whose presidential term largely focused on calling for adequate court funding, echoed Graham’s message, reminding the audience that, “Our judiciary is not a powerful interest group that can marshal voters and advocate for change … But we as lawyers can make a difference.”

Video: President Robinson Urges Members to Stand Up, Speak Out About Court Funding Crisis at 135th Opening Assembly

Robinson called for action, “whether it is writing a letter to the editor, addressing a Rotary Club or meeting with a legislator.”

Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC)

Sen. Lindsey Graham

During Graham’s remarks, he also thanked the ABA for its judicial nominee rating system. “That service you provide the United States Senate is invaluable because in these politically charged times in which we live, you are a filter, sort of a wall, between people who are politically connected and somebody who should be on the bench. Thank you very much.”

Video: Sen. Lindsey Graham Keynotes Opening Assembly, Praises ABA Efforts to Ensure Access to Justice, Rule of Law Worldwide

Beyond praise for the association, Graham expressed concern about judicial confirmations, saying that they have become political events, increasingly void of discussion on qualifications.

“If President Obama wins a second term, it is not appropriate for us to stop all of his nominees because we don’t adhere to his philosophy.” Graham said the real question is, “Are you qualified to be a judge?”

Graham said that “an independent judiciary is the heart and soul of democracy,” but that it continues to be at risk in other ways, too. Among them is inadequate judicial salaries. “We need to pay judges more, not less,” he said.

Graham also asked for fellow lawyers’ expertise when it comes to national cybersecurity. He said last year there were 330 bank robberies compared with 50,000 cyberattacks against financial institutions. “We live in incredibly dangerous, fast-paced, changing times where threats today would not have been envisioned a few years ago,” he said. “The war on terror goes on … and every day is a challenge to keep us safe. The debate between security and our values is a constant struggle. Help us where you can.”

A transcript of Senator Graham’s remarks can be found here.

President Robinson Honors Judge Advocates General

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President Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III recognized the judge advocates general of the Marine Corps, Army, Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force with presidential citations during special proceedings at the Opening Assembly. Robinson honored the following men and women of the military, citing their outstanding leadership and exceptional contributions to the legal profession.

Maj. Gen. Vaughn A. Ary, staff judge advocate to the commandant of the Marine Corps; Lt. Gen. Dana K. Chipman, judge advocate general of the Army; Rear Adm. Nanette M. DeRenzi, deputy judge advocate general of the Navy and commander, Naval Service Command; Lt. Gen. Richard C. Harding, judge advocate general of the Air Force; and Rear Adm. Frederick J. Kenney, judge advocate general of the Coast Guard.

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