April 28, 2021 Chair's Message

Chair’s Message

Erica Levine Powers

As I write this, on March 19, 2021, the President and Vice President of the United States are in Atlanta, mourning the murder of Asian-Americans that took place three days earlier, amidst the broader context of rising attacks on Asian-Americans in the last year. A year ago, seven national bar associations, including the ABA led by then-President Judy Perry Martinez, denounced rising anti-Asian hate related to the Coronavirus in a statement joined by bar associations, law firms, law schools, and non-profits. See here: napaba.org/page/20_04_bar_associations_denounce_antiasian_hate.

As I reflect on the work of this Section as a diverse and caring community that supports the rule of law and is engaged in cutting-edge legal work on the issues of our time, I am filled with pride. We focus on issues including taxation, Coronavirus, health care, housing, education, the judicial system, the police, elections and voting rights, economic justice and environmental protection, resiliency planning, public assembly, the First Amendment, and implicit and explicit bias—social class and economic, racial, ethnic, religious, sexual orientation, gender and gender identification, and age. As these manifest in programs and agencies at every level of government, including state, local, regional, and tribal, I am proud of the work that we do and the contributions that our members make. I am heartbroken at the many issues we confront, but heartened at the responses of the Section and our constituencies, and a sense we are moving forward.

The Section of State & Local Government Law is a small entity within the ABA, but our work is broad and deep. In addition to law students, Section members include law professors; public policy experts; lawyers working in state, regional, local, and tribal governments and non-profits; lawyers in small and large firms, representing such governments or non-profits or clients appearing before them; and advocacy groups.

Why should you be a member of the Section? Benefits that come with Section membership include free webinars; discounted CLE; free online access to a curated library of past programs; our renowned law journal, The Urban Lawyer; our quarterly State & Local Law News (SLLN); and discounted books published by the Section. In addition, there are many collegial and networking opportunities, even (some say especially) in our current online status, and opportunities for writing and publication in The Urban Lawyer and SLLN and our book programs. There are also opportunities for public presentations in webinars, in CLE, and at conferences; and to work on policy resolutions that, if adopted by the ABA House of Delegates, are the basis of ABA policy expounded at national forums, such as ABA Day in Congress, and international forums such as the ABA at the UN.

The programs so far this Winter have included a two-day series in January on Affordable Housing, available via Zoom without charge and for a discounted fee as on-demand CLE; and three February webinars on implicit and explicit bias in the experience of three judges and the courts, and the efforts of government entities to address and eliminate bias. These are available via Zoom without charge and also, for a discounted fee, as CLE on-demand.

Our Spring programming includes a free online April CLE on Coronavirus vaccine prioritization, allocation, and distribution, immediately followed by a highly affordable three-day joint online conference with the ABA Young Lawyers Division with networking and mentorship opportunities. In May, in a two-day series, we launch the Inaugural Resiliency Institute where lawyers, state, regional, tribal, and local government administrators, regulators and policy “wonks,” community members, planners, transportation and disaster experts, architects and engineers, developers, lenders, insurers, for-profits and non-profits are invited to come together for brainstorming and the sharing of ideas, as well as enhancing resiliency.

The exigencies of the Coronavirus pandemic and the need to move online have provided greatly increased opportunities for younger lawyers and those in small firms and government offices to join with the Section in our programming. We hope that you will join the Section as members, if you have not done so up to now, and share in our collegiality and networking opportunities. We reach out to lawyers new to our Section and help you get involved in our committees and communities.

The ABA dues structure provides favorable (low) rates for “new” lawyers (a term of art), solo and small-firm lawyers, judges, government lawyers, and those working in non-profit organizations. Our Section dues are only $60 on top of that. In the Covid world, we strive to keep prices low, benefits high, and social interaction only a Zoom or phone call away. And we always bear in mind the ultimate, stated goal of our Section: “To have fun!”

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Erica Levine Powers

Erica Levine Powers, Chair of the Section, is a mediator in Albany, NY, a transactional and regulatory lawyer, an academic, lead editor of Beyond the Fracking Wars (2013), and co-editor with Thomas W. Mitchell of a forthcoming book on heirs’ property.