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June 01, 2017 Summer 2017

Using the Power of SOGI for the Good of the Profession

 I  joined the SOGI Commission in 2013.  I had long been an active leader in the Section of Civil Rights & Social Justice (CRSJ) and was involved in its SOGI committee long before the ABA created the SOGI Commission. But upon joining the SOGI Commission, I quickly learned that the Goal III diversity commissions have a lot of influence in the ABA and that SOGI was eager and willing to use that power for the good of the profession.

I am a civil rights lawyer. I have endured and witnessed a lot of discrimination in and by the legal profession. Such discrimina- tion is a stain on the profession and it erodes public confidence in the law. The ABA has prepared reports and provided education about the existence and harm of discrimination, but I wanted to see the ABA do something that would create consequences for lawyers who engage in such behaviors. I knew that the District of Columbia and some states had ethical rules against discrimination, but that the ABA did not. I wanted to change that. I wanted the ABA to do more than just talk a good game.

 I first talked to CRSJ leaders Myles Lynk and Jodi Levine (a former SOGI commissioner) about my idea. They suggested that I use the power and influence of the SOGI Commission to move the ball for- ward. I raised the issue with then SOGI chair Jim Holmes and SOGI director Skip Holmes. They eagerly supported the idea, so I raised it with the Commission as a whole. They quickly jumped on board and decided that SOGI should spearhead the project with the goal of convincing the ABA to adopt a Model Rule of Professional Conduct against discrimination.

The SOGI Commission reached out to the other Goal III commissions to gain their support. We created an alliance with the com- missions and the Section of Civil Rights and Social Justice to urge the ABA's Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility (SCEPR) to take up the issue. SOGI took the lead in studying the idea and preparing the formal request to SCEPR. By 2014, CRSJ leader Myles Lynk was the SCEPR chair and was open a nd supportive of our efforts. SOGI prepared testimony and offered sample language.  SOGI commissioners lobbied their ABA circles to gain support and served on advisory committees. SOGI kept the pressure on SCEPR to not only recommend a rule but to recommend one with teeth. Each time SOGI had a chance to comment, it did so, and did so in a strong voice.

When SCEPR recommended a final rule in 2016, SOGI and its alliance worked tirelessly to advance the rule. Although we ultimately had to make some compromises in language, ABA Model Rule 8.4(g) was adopted by the ABA House of Delegates at the August 2016 annual meeting. The SOGI Commission took the lead to make this rule happen. I was proud to be part of the effort.

I congratulate SOGI on its 10th anniversary and encourage all SOGI commissioners to find a project that enables SOGI to use its power and influence for the good of the profession.



SOGI Liaison for Civil Rights & Social Justice