July 15, 2020 From the Chair

From the Chair

Kim T. Parker

As I write my final chair’s column, I am struck by the immense opportunities ahead for the ABA Criminal Justice Section. The world has dramatically changed before our eyes in this 100th year of our existence. When we entered 2020, we anticipated many challenges, but we had not imagined the crisis that is now upon us. Each of you and the people you serve have been deeply impacted personally and professionally by this pandemic. I have watched in awe as criminal justice professions across this nation have come together to find solutions in this crisis. The challenges we now face have forced us to take a hard look at how we conduct ourselves and how we manage criminal justice processes. Now more than ever, the collaboration of prosecutors, defenders, academics, judges, probation, and parole services is necessary. We are in an excellent position to lead the way at this turning point. We have a long history of collaboration in the Criminal Justice Section and our collaborative practices can serve as the model for the development of future criminal justice policy, procedure, and process.

I am happy to report that although we have been required to cancel many of our planned in-person meetings and conferences we have adapted and adjusted to virtual substitutes. Our National White- Collar Crime Institute converted their exceptional programming into a webinar package. This programing and other CLE webinar opportunities can be found on our website.

Our members continue to develop projects and advance policy on a broad range of criminal justice topics by taking advantage of virtual meeting platforms to conduct committee meetings and our Spring 2020 Council Meeting. During the recent first ever virtual meeting of the Criminal Justice Section Council we completed the second reading of the Discovery Standards and look forward to their adoption by the ABA House of Delegates. The council also advanced several resolutions for sponsorship, co-sponsorship, and support to the House of Delegates. Our resolutions work to drive policy changes in our communities, states, nation, and throughout the world.

At the mid-year meeting in Austin, Texas, Judge Bernice Donald led a robust, two-day, long-range planning meeting. Our ever-fluid criminal justice environment is thirsty for certainty and in need of a plan designed to meet the unique demands and challenges of our times. There are adaptations and changes to be made and as a section of the American Bar Association we are called to action.

Our diverse membership of criminal justice professionals is called to roll up our sleeves to find both new and effective ways to ameliorate justice. At this critical juncture, our justice systems demand our vision, ingenuity, creativity, and devotion. Listening and learning from the experiences of diverse criminal justice professionals will allow us to persevere into the next century. We lead the way by listening to opposing viewpoints and setting examples that honor diversity, require inclusivity and demand equity. Our strongest and most important attribute is our faithfulness to the inclusion and engagement of individuals who bring diverse realities, experiences, perspectives, ideas, and dreams to the work of the section. It is imperative we constantly and consistently demand that our section reflect the diversity of the world in all that we do.

It is stunning that despite our efforts and strides to defeat bias in the criminal justice system, extreme acts of vigilante violence, perpetuated by prejudice, plague our nation. We cannot continue to suffer vigilantism and racism cannot be tolerated. Loathsome biases cannot be purposefully or inadvertently supported by the acts and decisions of any criminal justice participant. To serve justice, law enforcement, prosecutors, defenders, judges, and correction officers must be ever watchful to defend against, partisanship, favoritism, and bigotry. Attitudes and opinions of hostility toward one another cannot be endured by the governments who appoint and employ criminal justice actors or the communities who elect them.

As a prosecutor for 32 years, I am keenly aware of the significant discretionary power of prosecutors. The discretionary power of prosecutors is to be applied soundly and without bias or favoritism. Prosecutors can never take a play off, ignore or stand by with justice at stake. Nor can prosecutors hide behind skewed interpretations of the law when face to face with savagery. Prosecutors must stand firmly and act boldly to eliminate bias in their communities. Indeed, the call does not only go to prosecutors, it is the responsibility of all lawyers to guard against unfairness in the legal system. We all must work together to fight atrocities. We are jointly the keepers of truth and justice. During the turmoil of these times, we must continue to protect the integrity of the criminal justice system and promote respect for the Rule of Law. We must move with deliberate speed and human kindness to ensure that our communities are safe, victims are secure, and the rights of defendants are upheld.

I am honored to have served as chair of this amazing section of the American Bar Association. It has been and extremely rewarding experience. We will continue together in this centennial year, to find new ways to conduct the business of the Criminal Justice Section. The circumstances of these uncertain days require us to live into our anniversary motto “Perfecting our Vision 2020.” Together we will persevere 100 more.


Kim T. Parker


Kim T. Parker is chair of the ABA Criminal Justice Section and prosecutor coordinator for Kansas County and District Attorneys.