Every summer during the ABA Annual Meeting, the American Bar Association conducts one of its most honored traditions, the passing of the presidential gavel and installation of new officers. While this usually happens with great fanfare in front of the nearly 600 members of the House of Delegates, the Association opted for a digital presentation due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
As a result, on August 4th, Patricia Lee “Trish” Refo became the first ABA president to be sworn in virtually, accepting the honor by video from the porch of the Sandra Day O’Connor house in Arizona. President Refo is a Partner in the law firm of Snell & Wilmer in Phoenix, where she chairs the firm’s Professional Liability Litigation Group and concentrates on complex commercial litigation and internal investigations.
Over the years, President Refo has held numerous high-ranking positions within the ABA, including serving as chair of the House of Delegates from 2014-2016. She also has served as chair of the ABA’s Section of Litigation, chair of the ABA Day Planning Committee, and director of the American Bar Endowment. Among her many awards and recognitions, she was named one of the 50 most influential women lawyers in America by the National Law Journal.
Calling upon lawyers to strengthen their resolve to be problem solvers, Refo gave currency to the ABA’s goals by stating, “We stand for a judiciary that is fair, impartial, and independent of the executive branch — of every administration. We stand for equal treatment of every person by the justice system. We stand for the rule of law in which citizens and government are held to account and where the laws are administered fairly and without regard to privilege. And we stand for free and fair elections, where all eligible citizens get to vote without impediments and have their vote counted.”
Other Incoming ABA Leadership
President-Elect: Reggie Turner
Also ascending to a new leadership position is ABA President-Elect Reginald “Reggie” Turner. A lawyer with the law firm of Clark Hill in Detroit, Michigan, he is an experienced and accomplished litigator, government affairs advocate, and strategic advisor. Turner not only has been active for years in the ABA, he also has served as president of the National Bar Association and the State Bar of Michigan. In his speech to the ABA House of Delegates, Turner said, “The ABA is our collective effort to fulfill the Lawyer’s Oath. We work for just laws, human rights, a fair and efficient legal system, and meaningful access to justice for all.”
Chair, House of Delegates: Barbara J. Howard
During the Annual Meeting, Barbara J. Howard started her two-year term as Chair of the House of Delegates. This is the second-highest elected position within the ABA. She is Principal of the law firm of Barbara J. Howard Co., L.P.A., a practice that focuses on family law, and has extensive experience within the organized bar. Having “grown up” in the ABA’s Young Lawyers Division, she has been a member of the House of Delegates since 1986 and served on all but one of its committees. She also is past president of both the Ohio State Bar Association and the Cincinnati Bar Association.
In addition to changes in these three Association leadership positions, other elected officers were also installed during the meeting. Pauline Weaver became Secretary of the Association for the next three years, and Kevin Shepard, who was Treasurer-Elect this past year, started his three-year term as the ABA’s Treasurer.
Finally, along with congratulating our new officers, the Governmental Affairs team would like to thank immediate Past-President Judy Perry Martinez for her outstanding leadership during such a tumultuous year. Her unwavering strength and responsiveness to emerging issues was an inspiration to the staff and members of the ABA.
The ABA is fortunate to have such committed and capable leadership. For more information on our ABA leaders, visit the Office of the President’s website here.