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ABA President: ‘There are no so-called judges in America’

Linda Klein

American Bar Association President Linda A. Klein Monday called personal attacks on judges “attacks on our Constitution” and warned that it is vital that the judiciary remains independent and free from political pressure.

“There are no ‘so-called judges’ in America,” she said Monday in a speech to the ABA’s governing House of Delegates at its Midyear Meeting in Miami. “There are simply judges – fair and impartial. And we must keep it that way.”

Turning to immigration, Klein told the House of Delegates that significant portions of recent Executive Orders on immigration “jeopardize fundamental principles of justice, due process and the rule of law.”

“Under the rule of law, we owe due process to all, including those who face deportation,” she said.

Klein praised lawyers who had rushed to airports where immigrants were detained, noting that “it is important that lawyers represent their clients’ interests – even unpopular interests – without fear of retaliation or persecution.” And she announced that the ABA, working with the American Immigration Lawyers Association, has helped set up a website to coordinate the volunteer efforts of lawyers responding to the president’s travel ban. The website is live now at www.immigrationjustice.u….

Here were her remarks:

Good morning. Thank you all for being here in service to our profession and our country at this critical time. By representing all practice areas and settings across our great nation, you are the collective voice of all lawyers. Your work throughout the year and your presence here is vital, especially now.

Last night, unfortunately, the Patriots came from behind to win the Super Bowl. But here in Miami, football history means one thing: the 1972 Dolphins. That team did what no team has done since: 17 wins and no losses. That was a defining season.

So – here we are, as lawyers, in the city of the Miami Dolphins, facing our own defining season.

What defines the American Bar Association at this critical moment? It is our commitment to the rule of law, due process, and access to justice. With these foundations, our country has weathered every crisis: civil war, world wars, economic depressions and social unrest.

There’s been a lot of talk about protecting our borders. Let me tell you what the most important border is: It’s our Constitution and the rule of law it embodies. We as lawyers are called upon to protect it. As Winston Churchill put it, “Never give in. Never, never, never, never!”

Make no mistake, personal attacks on judges are attacks on our Constitution. Let us be clear. The independence of the judiciary is not up for negotiation.

As lawyers, we are trained to be thinkers and leaders – in our profession, in our communities and in our society.

So, lawyers – let’s lead! Let’s lead by promoting and protecting the rule of law.

Let’s lead in our communities. Let’s lead together, in this, our defining season.

For a nation based on the rule of law, nothing is more important than the impartiality and integrity of our court system. A fair and impartial judiciary is a proud hallmark of American democracy.

Despite the urging of our bar association, Congress has been extremely slow in filling vacant judgeships. Today, there are more than 100 empty seats on our federal courts. This is a real threat to the rule of law in America.

The ABA does not advocate for or against individual judicial nominees. Rather, we evaluate their qualifications. The ABA’s independent Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary conducts extensive peer reviews of each nominee’s integrity, professional competence and judicial temperament. The committee does not consider a nominee’s philosophy, political affiliation or ideology.

We will continue our vital role of vetting every federal court nominee, as we have done since the Eisenhower administration, because it is essential that our courts are led by the most qualified judges.

We want the Senate to have all the information it needs to make an informed decision on each nominee for lifetime appointments to the Supreme Court and every federal court.

It is vital that our judiciary remains independent and free from political pressure — independent from party politics, independent from Congress and independent from the president of the United States himself.

There are no “so-called judges” in America. There are simply judges – fair and impartial. And we must keep it that way.

Another pressing justice issue is immigration. Every nation has a right to protect its borders. But we are concerned about significant portions of the executive orders recently issued. They jeopardize fundamental principles of justice, due process and the rule of law.

We will formally roll out our Value of Lawyers program next month, when we will share videos and other tools that you can use to help connect lawyers with the people who need them. Here is the first in a series of videos we are creating that can be branded for your state or local bar.

Isn’t that great? Thank you so much to our Communications Division and – particularly producer Julie Brown – for her hard work on it. We want to tell your stories. Please share them with us for future videos.

While you are helping clients, here’s what the ABA can do to help you. ABA Blueprint is the answer to the question I heard from lawyers over and over again when I crisscrossed the country on my listening tours last year. They asked: How can I keep doing what I love – practicing law – when so many administrative tasks get in the way?

ABA Blueprint is a one-stop shop for lawyers – a suite of services that helps lawyers manage the business side of practicing law. It is aimed mainly at solo practitioners and small-firm lawyers. That’s three out of every four law offices.

We want to partner with state and local bars on this exciting project. Talk to us about

We are also starting a pilot program in April with the State Bar of Montana – dual membership in both the State Bar and the ABA for one discounted price. If it succeeds, we will expand it to other states and bar associations. Our profession is stronger when we work together.

But so many lawyers do not know all the things that the ABA and its 3,500 entities do. We’re now spreading the word on Twitter with the hashtag #ABADidYouKnow.

You can follow me @LindaKleinLaw or find these messages on the ABA website. Please help us spread the word.

We look forward to seeing you in August at the Annual Meeting in New York City. For the first time, we will actively involve the local legal community in our programming and events, making it possible for local lawyers, even non-members, to experience the ABA.

We will hold panels at law firms that have generously donated their offices to showcase New York’s world-class legal community. We’re calling this CLE in the City. This fresh format has brought several sections back to the Annual Meeting, and I thank Mike Byowitz for chairing this tremendous effort.

So, how do we meet the challenges of our defining season? We meet them together. Like America, the ABA’s strength is its diversity, and we need every member’s contribution.

Let’s remember that incredible Dolphins team: Bob Griese didn’t do it alone. Larry Csonka didn’t. Mercury Morris didn’t. The Miami Dolphins were a great team. They worked hard and they worked together.

It takes more than a quarterback – or an ABA president – to make a great team. We have a great team at the ABA with our incredible staff, this House, our sections, our Board of Governors, our officers, and our members.

We have great presidents and officers coming up. Thank you to all and a special thank you to my husband and teammate, Michael.

This is the ABA’s defining moment. To show our relevancy to our profession and the public. To hold power accountable. To insist on fundamental respect for our laws and the people they protect.

At the ABA, we work together. We protect the rule of law. We defend the Constitution. We are lawyers. We took an oath and these are our values. We will never give in. Never, never, never, never.

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