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June 29, 2022 CHAIR COLUMN

June CRSJ Leadership Column

From the Chair

I know we are outraged by the decision in Dobbs, disturbed by the decision in Bruen, and angered by the continuing violence and manifestations of hatred toward members of the BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and certain religious communities in this country.

Since July is the last month of my Chair year and begins our transition of leadership from one Chair to the next, I invited our Chair-Elect, Juan Thomas, to speak with me in this Chair’s Column. I have been greatly honored by the privilege to lead this wonderful section this year. Together, we have accomplished much!  Clearly, there is much more work to be done.

From the Chair-Elect

This past Friday, the United States Supreme Court made women second-class citizens.  Women in the United States now live in a country similar to the America African Americans lived under when there were “free states” versus “slave states” in the 1800s. Even after slavery was abolished by the 13th Amendment, African Americans still lived in a country where southern states instituted Jim Crow laws under the guise of “state rights.” With the Dobbs ruling, the Supreme Court has revived this notion of “state rights”.  Now in some states, women are free to make and exercise their own reproductive-health choices, but in other states, they will not have this freedom. Pregnant women in “Jim Crow states” who do not have the financial means to leave to exercise their personal health care options, will also lack the same financial resources to care for a child.   

From the Chair

If we look around, it appears that injustice faces us from every corner. However, this Section - and those that belong to it - ardently believe in the concept of Justice and we will fight to see that concept realized in our experience. We are watching and working for ways to bring more just outcomes to the country and to our communities. Anticipating last week’s SCOTUS decisions, we successfully requested the ABA set up a task force to analyze and respond to the legal ramifications of those opinions. We are seeking methods of linking pro bono lawyers to those who will now need legal representation. Please continue to join with us in our work across the full spectrum of civil rights and social justice issues. We need every member now more than ever!

Our next meeting will occur in Chicago from August 3-9, where we will convene at the ABA Annual Meeting. We hope you will join us for our Showcase Programs, Council Meeting, Leadership Dinner, Voting Rights Initiative, and for our Thurgood Marshall Award Dinner during which we will celebrate the work of Sherrilyn Ifill who recently retired as Head of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. 

Beth K. Whittenbury
Chair, Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice

Juan R. Thomas
Chair-elect, Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice

Beth K. Whittenbury is the 2021-22 Chair of the ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice and past leader of the ABA Commission on Youth at Risk. Currently, she is the Principal at Beth K. Whittenbury & Associates.

Juan R. Thomas is the 2021-22 Chair-elect of the ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice and Past President of the National Bar Association (NBA). Currently, he is Of Counsel to Quintairos, Prieto, Wood & Boyer, P.A., and is the founder and principal of The Thomas Law Group.