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September 30, 2021 CHAIR COLUMN

October CRSJ Chair's Column

We are officially one month into the bar year! Already I’m amazed at the wonderful, tireless work of our members. Each day, we have members addressing so many issues of concern: from abortion rights to Haitian immigrants and most things in between.

Did you know that since the start of the pandemic we’ve produced 141 webinars? We’ve also written, proposed, and passed 14 ABA policy resolutions through the House of Delegates, and cosponsored many more. The topics of these range from policing reform to environmental protection. You can view the resolutions which have come out of our Section here. In September alone we produced the following webinars. Thank you to all who worked to make these possible.

Is There a Needle in the Haystack? Exploring Religious Objections to Vaccine Mandates

How Free is the Free Press?

Mobilizing Legal Resources for Haitians in a Time of Crisis: How the Legal Community Can Respond

Stopping Domestic Terrorism: A Critical Examination of the Department of Homeland Security’s Violence Prevention Strategy

Afghanistan on the Brink: Risk Assessments for Women’s Rights, Cultural Heritage Preservation and Economic Relief

Afghanistan: A Rapid Response to the Recent U.S. Withdrawal and How You Can Help

Red, White & Black: Reflections on How Black Struggle Shaped White America

In addition, we’ve started new initiatives to answer the 173 student questions we’ve received about civil rights, with over fifty answers now in production, and to explore how we can more effectively implement the policies we’ve passed. If you wish to help answer these questions, please contact Linda Herr. If you wish to help with our policy implementation initiative, please contact Juan Thomas or Henry Dixon.

I have been asked by many of our members to support the ABA making a statement addressing ABA policy on abortion in light of the passage of SB8 in Texas and the copycat legislation recently introduced in Florida. While only the ABA President speaks on ABA policy, I have strongly encouraged him to make such a statement. Here are the two statements issued by ABA President, Reggie Turner, to date: a tweet via Twitter, and a press release accompanying the filing of an amicus brief in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. For those of you wishing to personally speak out on this issue, I refer you to an open letter drafted by Lawyers Defending American Democracy. This is not an ABA letter, so I add it here for your reference and use if you choose to do so in your personal, individual capacity. Our Rights of Women Committee is taking the lead on our Section’s responses around this issue. So, if you wish to support those efforts, please contact our Committee Chairs, Aracely Munoz and Jessica Stender, through their Committee Connect community.

With great pleasure, I announce this year’s Father Drinan Award recipient, Jerry Gardner. Jerry has been a long-term Section leader. To me, he embodies all that award should honor. He passionately advocates for issues dear to us but does so in a way that unifies and doesn’t divide. He brings humor when we need it but is relentlessly ours as he seriously pursues our causes. I’m also pleased that by honoring Jerry, we honor our first Native American to receive this award. I hope you will join us during our virtual award ceremony, to be held during the 2022 ABA Midyear Meeting. Please know that while the ABA may be planning to meet in Seattle during this meeting, CRSJ events will be virtual.

I look forward to seeing each of you at our Fall Meeting coming up on October 20-22, 2021. We’ve been busy planning a productive and fun meeting for all of you. The meeting will be virtual and scheduled to accommodate contiguous U.S. time zones. We will have a fun, non-embarrassing icebreaker during our reception and Derek W. Black will speak to us about his book we are all encouraged to read to help unify our Section, Schoolhouse Burning, through our “One Section, One Book” program. I hope you will pick up a copy of the book today and start reading so that you can ask meaningful questions of Prof. Black. The book can be purchased through Amazon here or for those of you who prefer to support local bookstores here. I’m sure it’s also available in your local library. We’ve arranged the agenda to make the best use of everyone’s time. Please view a draft agenda here and plan to join us! I look forward to seeing you there!

No matter how fast we run, there is always more work to be done. So, we need your help inviting new members into the Section. Do you have friends or colleagues who care as much as we do about these issues? Please invite them to join. If they claim they don’t have the time, let them know that even their $45 dues make a difference. We rely heavily on our dues revenue to fund the work of the Section. Let’s look for and reach out to a diverse group of people to support our efforts. When they respond, we all need to include them in our work and actively welcome them. If you’d like to help with our membership, diversity, and inclusion efforts, please reach out to Lacy Durham. If you have great fundraising ideas, please reach out to John McDonnell.

Thank you all for continuing to support our efforts this year. We are strongest when we work together. United, we cannot fail!

Beth K. Whittenbury
Chair, 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.