ISBA Presidential Statement

Several days ago, I published a brief statement on Illinois Lawyer Now that has resulted in substantial response from our members. Several nights ago, we as a nation viewed federal troops in uniform clearing out peaceful demonstrators in Washington D.C. As an ISBA President who has focused on the rule of law and the legal process, I felt a statement was important. The focus of that statement missed the mark in a number of important ways. For that reason, I apologize. It is important that a few additional words be said, which go to the heart of our values as an association focused on justice. 

The shocking and brutal death of George Floyd on camera, at the hands of a police officer sworn to serve and protect life, has shocked our nation to its core. For some of us, it has brought up old wounds that date back decades and indeed centuries. For others, such as myself, it has underscored a point of reference to understand that which is not part of my individual experience and does not get enough mention: that minority communities are too often treated unequally at the hands of the law. 

My agenda as President has been to focus on the “rule of law.” This cherished principle, however, becomes merely a truism when those charged with enforcing the law―police officers, lawyers, judges, or politicians―fail their duty. Too often the “rule of law” is slanted in favor of some, at the expense of others. This must change. The tragic and senseless death of Mr. Floyd must not be in vain. Now is the time for us to heal, listen, and learn. Let’s have the long overdue conversations.

As an association, the ISBA has in the past several years pushed forward on diversity initiatives, policies, civil rights, mentoring, and avenues for further inclusion. We have made much progress, and yet it is not enough. Institutional racism will not be dismantled by policies alone. Surely, we cannot and should not erase or ignore the wrongs and oppression of three hundred years. What we must do as a society is use this important moment in history to listen to each other with hearts of empathy and understanding. We must use this time to find common purpose in creating a spirit, a society and an ideal that fulfills the ideals of our Constitution, in its best sense. As lawyers in Illinois, as judges in Illinois, and as citizens in our communities we have a choice: We can move on to the next item of business or we can start the process of real change, individual to individual, one conversation at a time. 

I am challenged, and I challenge our new Illinois State Bar Officers, Board of Governors and our 29,000 member not to move on, but to recognize what is wrong, what is unequal, what is racist, and, most importantly, what is needed. We must for our society. Former President George Bush in his recent statement called upon each of us to go “the way of empathy, and shared commitment, and bold action, and a peace rooted in justice.” We all must do better, myself included. This is the better way.

Finally, a quote from Martin Luther King is all that needs to give us guidance:

“The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

David B. Sosin

Posted on June 5, 2020 by Rhys Saunders
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Member Comments (3)

i wholeheartedly approve what david said. this association must continue to press to see that all receive equal justice under the law. all citizens, non citizens in our country, the police, military and all elected and appointed government offifcials. everyone treated equally.

for 60 years starting when i first worked on the presidendial campaign of senator john f. kennedy, i have never understood why it is so difficult in the usa to treat everyone equally. everyone. that has to be the goal of this association and of each of us who swore to uphold the laws and constitution of both the usa and the state of illinois.

david, thank you for your years of service to the isba and expecially during this difficult bar year due to covid. thank you for speaking what needs to be said. 

I also echo the sentiments of President Sosin. David and I first met many long years ago when we were both on the Women and Minorities Committee of the ISBA. We knew then, as we know now, that Equal Justice Under Law meant just that, not for some, but for all equally! This country has struggled with that simple concept since it's inception in 1775-76. When, even then, as now, the forefathers had to struggle with the ideas revolving around slavery, and if they could give in so that this nation could be born! It's time to stop the rhetoric of hate mongers, and start to live in brotherhood, peace, and equality for all mankind.  

This is a much better response. Thank you for taking the time to reconsider your previous words and revising them accordingly. We appreciate your leadership. 

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