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June 07, 2023 CHAIR COLUMN

June CRSJ Chair's Column

It’s Summertime! For many of us, this time of year means being outside as much as possible (at least for those of us who live in places where there is a hard, cold winter). Kids are home from school, traveling on family vacations, or attending a family reunion. Golf outings, ice cream, baseball, swimming, beaches, backyard barbeques, and long walks are all popular activities in the summertime.

This summer is a busy time for our Section. We are celebrating Pride Month this June, and encourage you to watch this week’s Chair Chat with our SOGI Committee Vice Chair Nathan Bruemmer. We are excited and busy planning for the ABA Annual Meeting this August in Denver. We are preparing to introduce 10 resolutions before the House of Delegates that address several critical issues facing our country: Renter Tax Credit, Caste Discrimination, Race and the Death Penalty, Book Banning, Commercial Spyware and Reproductive Freedom. We are also working collaboratively with other ABA entities to co-sponsor other resolutions that are necessary to protect the rule of law and advance our democracy.  

Our Section is also excited about this year’s Thurgood Marshall Award Celebration which will be held during the Annual Meeting on Saturday, August 5th. This year we are honoring Attorney John Echohawk, the Executive Director of the Native American Rights Funds (NARF). He was the first graduate of the University of New Mexico’s special program to train Indian lawyers and was a founding member of the American Indian Law Students Association while in law school. Mr. Echohawk has been with NARF since its inception in 1970, having served continuously as Executive Director since 1977. Mr. Echohawk has been recognized as one of the 100 most influential lawyers in America by the National Law Journal and has received numerous service awards and other recognition for his leadership in the Indian law field.

I want to personally thank my friend Jennifer Weddle, Past President of the National Native American Bar Association, for leading our fundraising committee this year. Jennifer and her team have done a tremendous job by helping our Section meet its fundraising goals in order for us to continue to provide the important and relevant programming we offer throughout the bar year.  It’s not too late to purchase your tickets and to be a sponsor. Please visit the Annual Meeting registration portal to buy a ticket or review our Prospectus to become a sponsor. I hope you will join us for a wonderful evening of celebration!

This summer, those of us in the education and civil rights community are also bracing for the Supreme Court’s ruling in two affirmative action cases (see the ABA’s amicus brief). The two cases involve Harvard University and the University of North Carolina.  In both, the issue is whether the two schools can employ admissions policies that consider race as one of several factors consistent with the Court’s past decisions, including its 2003 ruling in Grutter v. Bollinger. By a 5-4 vote in Grutter, the Court held that the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution does not prohibit a law school’s narrowly tailored use of race in admissions decisions. However, many believe similar to how the Court ruled last summer in Dobbs, overturning Roe v. Wade, that the Court will use these two cases to overturn Grutter thus banning the use of race in admission decisions.

Finally, this summer we are not going to say “goodbye,” but say, “until we see you again” to a member of our Section’s staff, Ruchika Sharma. Ruchika will be attending law school this Fall and is leaving us later this month. She has been an important and invaluable member of our team and she will be sincerely missed. We look forward to Ruchika returning to the ABA and our Section as a law student member and then as a new lawyer after she graduates. We wish her well and thank her for her service to our Section.

So, it’s going to be a busy summer. After you join us in our work and support the Section’s programs and events, please enjoy your summer and we hope to see you at Annual.

    Juan R. Thomas

    ABA Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice, 2022-23 Chair

    Juan R. Thomas is the 2022-23 Chair 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.