Senior Lawyers’ Congressional Visits Delayed

Albert C. Harvey

Article 1 of the Constitution gives immense powers to the Congress. Many specific powers are listed, but the one that draws much attention from those affected by government spending is the appropriation power.

How does the general public influence the exercise of that power? It can support a candidate, contact a member or members as an individual, hire a lobbyist to make the contact, or contact members as part of a group.

Lawyers in the ABA have generally followed the fourth avenue through an event known as ABA Day. Two days each Spring, leaders of the legal community—local, state, and national—come together in Washington, D.C., to advocate for selected measures important to lawyers and the communities they serve.

This year, the Senior Lawyers Division decided to join state delegations at ABA Day. In many cases, senior lawyers have developed long-standing relationships with their individual senators and representatives. Senior lawyers also add a measure of gravitas to the delegation going to the member’s office and personally making a plea.

The Senior Lawyers Division planned to turn its Spring meeting into the effort of advancing causes to individual members of Congress.

What could stop such a magnificent effort dead in its tracks? The novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. It not only stopped the ABA and the Senior Lawyers Division but everything else in our work and lives.

We senior lawyers have weathered many things in the course of our careers, including several wars, the disasters associated with 9/11, and the falls and recoveries of the stock market. We’ll make it past COVID-19 as well.

In the meantime, the Senior Lawyers Division is encouraging members to lobby virtually and has reprogrammed its Spring Meeting activities. One was the presentation of the John H. Pickering Award.

John Pickering chaired the Senior Lawyers Division and was a founding member of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering (now WilmerHale).

I remember him from my early days in the ABA House of Delegates. He was a superb advocate, particularly for pro bono service, ethical conduct, and seniors’ issues. When he spoke, he had the full attention of the House of Delegates.

The Pickering Award annually recognizes a member of the legal profession for brilliant legal work, advocacy of pro bono service, dedication to the cause of equal justice for all, and promotion of the highest standards of ethics and professionalism in the law.

The person selected by a committee of several ABA entities to receive the award for 2020 is Steven A. Reiss. He’s a recently retired partner of Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP of New York City, a lecturer at Columbia Law School, and general counsel to the Brennan Center for Justice.

He’s the author of many books and articles on jury instructions and white collar crime. He graduated from Stanford Law School and served as a law clerk to Judge John Minor Wisdom of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and for Justice William J. Brennan Jr. of the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Pickering Award will now be presented at the ABA Annual Meeting. It’s fitting for the award to be celebrated as part of the work done by Senior Lawyers Division lawyers to promote the rule of law to members of Congress. John Pickering would be proud of that effort and for the person receiving the award in 2020, Steven Reiss.


Albert C. Harvey

Albert C. Harvey is of counsel at Lewis Thomason in Memphis, Tenn., and the 2019-2020 chair of the ABA Senor Lawyers Division. He is also a former member of the ABA Board of Governors and a 25-year member of the ABA House of Delegates.