Access to Justice Theme of Several Key Speeches in ABA House of Delegates
The association’s House of Delegates met at the conclusion of the ABA’s Midyear Meeting to consider more than two dozen policy resolutions. In addition, the 560-member policymaking body heard from several ABA leaders and other luminaries in the legal profession on Feb. 11.
In welcoming members of the house to Dallas, former Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas spoke about the importance of the judiciary when she said that “Without the rule of law, without an independent judiciary, you cannot have a democracy.” Hutchison concluded, “What you do makes a difference.”
In the wake of the shootings earlier in the day in a Delaware courthouse, President of the Conference of Chief Justices Myron T. Steele spoke on the “State of the State Courts” before heading back to his state. Steele encouraged lawyers to help improve the public’s understanding of the importance of the judiciary so that “we can assure access to justice for all of our citizens.” But it “can’t be done if we’re taken for granted,” Steele said, likening the judiciary — which typically is funded between 1 – 3 percent of a state’s budget — to a “stepchild.”
During her remarks, ABA President Laurel Bellows said that ABA members not only walk the walk but also “change the conversation” on critical issues to society. “As guardians of justice, we must be the spokespeople for fairness.” Fifty years after enactment of the Civil Rights Act, Bellows continued, there is “absolutely no excuse” for gender and racial inequity.
Bellows also spoke about state court underfunding, citing the “need to save the justice system from starvation.” From these issues, to cybersecurity, human trafficking and attorney-client privilege — even on what might be controversial matters — we are “not going to stay silent.”
In the afternoon session, ABA President-Elect Nominee William C. Hubbard recalled past ABA presidents and what they have taught him, including how those individuals give of their time to improve the administration of justice. Further, Hubbard spoke about the next generation of lawyers, saying that the ABA “can’t be your father’s Oldsmobile.” Finally, the ABA should, Hubbard said, embrace diversity, creating a “new standard for diversity and inclusion that is the envy of the world.”
After the ABA adopts policy, it is able to lobby Congress on behalf of those policies. Former House of Delegates Chair Linda Klein spoke about ABA Day, the association’s concerted lobbying effort in Washington, D.C., in April. This year it’s even more important, given the number of new members in Congress, Klein explained. ABA Day provides the opportunity to educate members and their staffs about issues of importance to the profession.