It seems that we just left the Abbey in Fontana and yet our new bar year is well underway! I would like to welcome our Government Lawyers Committee members and all of our supporters to our new term and give you a glimpse of our 2012-13 agenda. First, a few words about our origin are in order.
In 1999, the ISBA created this special committee in response to the lobbying efforts of the ISBA’s Committee on Membership and Bar Activities (now the Committee on Bar Services and Activities), including one well-known and determined advocate—our current President John Thies. Those ISBA members, along with the first Committee on Government Lawyers members -- Chuck Gunnarson, Pat Hughes, Nancy Katz, Kate Kelly, Paul Logli, Pat Lord, Marc Loro, Raquel “Rocky” Martinez, Pat Moser, Lynn Patton, Don Ruff, and Sheila Simon – recognized the need for public sector lawyers within the ISBA to have a voice in the direction of the association as well as a more focused means of communication through a separate newsletter and programming and, more generally, a platform to articulate the legal, ethical and professional development issues that can arise within the various forms of government we serve. Without their vision and persistence, we wouldn’t exist and I wouldn’t have the privilege of writing this message.
This term, we are pleased to continue the tradition of presenting our popular and highly entertaining “Ethics Extravaganza,” a professional responsibility program addressing the complex ethical challenges that lurk around every corner for the lawyer employed by a State or local government entity, for those who leave such employment, and for those who do business with government entities. Look for that program in the spring of 2013. For another approach to the subject of ethics in the workplace, be sure to read about Patrick Blanchard, the Cook County Independent Inspector General featured in this issue of the newsletter’s “Someone You Should Know” article.
Additionally, a 2013 panel program on the legislative process and current legislative issues is in the planning stages. We will also offer a second series of public service programming for Cable TV. Our first series last year addressed the topic of identity theft and scams against vulnerable citizens. This term, we will gather a panel of community service experts and knowledgeable attorneys to cover a second topic of interest to our diverse communities: access to affordable housing and tenants rights. Both programs are co-sponsored with the ISBA’s Racial and Ethnic Minorities Standing Committee. Beyond that, we look toward devoting some newsletter space to substantive legal issues we in government often face, such as questions of absolute and qualified immunities for government officials, ethical violations, sovereign immunity and the electoral process.
Once I complete this “comment,” our newsletter will go to press. The Public Servant is a publication in which we take great pride. It brings to those in public sector practice and the ISBA’s broad membership some much-needed insight into the complexities, demands, and rewards of government practice, the accomplishments of those engaged in such service, and the contributions we can make to improve the public’s perception of lawyers and public sector lawyers in particular. If you have an interest in raising an issue pertinent to our practices, please let us know. ■