January 2019Volume 49Number 5PDF icon PDF version (for best printing)

Bench & Bar addresses attacks on the rule of law

For much of this year, the Bench and Bar Section Council has focused discussion on attacks on the rule of law. At the recent Midyear Meeting held in Chicago, ISBA President Hon. James F. McCluskey generously took the time to address our group of judges and practicing attorneys on this topic. Judge McCluskey highlighted strong public statements made by him and several of his predecessors, including Richard D. Felice, Vincent F. Cornelius, and immediate ISBA past president and Bench & Bar Council member, the Hon. Russell W. Hartigan (ret.), on behalf of the ISBA responding to various political actions and comments by public officials viewed by many as outrageous, defamatory, and damaging to our democratic institutions.

The section council then discussed constructive steps we can adopt to counteract these negative forces on our profession, and enhance the standing of the judiciary and legal profession as a whole.
Among the suggestions put forth in our meeting were: advocating for the reinstatement of civics classes in our schools, promoting non-partisan elections of judges, maximizing educational opportunities with jurors both before and after trials, courtroom to classroom seminars, an active lawyers speaker’s bureau, concerted social media efforts, preparation of pamphlets, fliers and videos explaining to the public the meaning of our judicial system, and many more.

This year, as an initial responsive action, our section council created a video outreach committee. We’ll report more on these concrete efforts in the months to come. In addition, we’ll continue to focus on education and advocacy on behalf of the profession both within our section council meetings, and in seminars. For example, the next Bench and Bar sponsored CLE program on civility and professionalism will take place at the University of Illinois on April 4th will be open to law students as well as members of the bar.

We welcome suggestions from all our newsletter readers to propose other constructive actions we can advance to both protect and promote our judicial system. Your valuable input on this vitally important topic is especially welcome.

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