March 26, 2021 Columns

Chair’s Message

Erica Levine Powers

On Jan. 6, 2021, ABA President Patricia Lee Refo issued a powerful statement condemning the assault on the Capitol and calling on President Trump to “restore and protect the rule of law.” As Section Chair, I am proud of our ABA President and her statement. I also am proud of the many state and local government officials, who after the national election, carried out their duties consistent with the rule of law, including those under seemingly relentless pressure to abrogate the election results. The members of our Section are at the cutting edge of responsibility and carry out tasks that maintain democratic institutions — voting, education, land use, ethics, housing, transportation and infrastructure, the judiciary, civil rights and civil liberties.

A diverse and accomplished Section, we maintain and support ABA Goal III. We are willing to initiate difficult conversations. In February, African American History Month, SLG’s traditional diversity programming at ABA Midyear included a panel of judges examining their experience of implicit bias, a panel of judges and academics on the role that the judicial system continues to play in denying minority rights, and a more hopeful panel, put together by our Young Lawyers, on local efforts to ensure equality.

Leading up to Women’s History Month in March, we celebrate some outstanding women. Two of our past Section Chairs, both active in the ABA, have been nominated for the Margaret Brent Women of Achievement Award. Ellen Rosenblum and Patty Salkin are from different parts of the country and exercise very different legal expertise: Ellen as a judge and now Attorney General of the state of Oregon; and Patty, Touro College Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and the Provost for Graduate and Professional Divisions, as well as a renowned author and academic. Both continue to make major contributions to the ABA. C. Elisia Frazier, Atlanta’s Managing Deputy City Attorney and our Jefferson Fordham Advocacy honoree in 2019, will receive the Robert F. Drinan Award for Distinguished Service to Civil Rights and Social Justice. Donna Frazier, Parish Attorney for Caddo Parish, and a past Section Chair, is President of the Shreveport (LA) Bar Association.

In spite of COVID-19, we have been able to accomplish a great deal. Our highly successful fall online conference, all COVID-related, included a focus on voting, children’s education, congregate housing, natural disasters, moratoria on evictions, and the homeless. The programming is all available online on-demand. Our January webinars on affordable housing, hosted by our Land Use Committee and the Land Use Institute, are also available online. In April, our joint spring conference with the ABA Young Lawyers Division will include the Men of Color project. In May, we will have a National Institute on Resiliency. We plan to have a National Institute on Heirs’ Property during the summer, in conjunction with the launch of a book. We congratulate Thomas W. Mitchell, co-editor of the book, who has been named a MacArthur Fellow for his work on heirs’ property and the adoption of the Uniform Partition of Heirs’ Property Act in 17 jurisdictions so far.

Our publication program continues apace, publishing books, with a Publications Oversight Board ably led by Bill Scheiderich, and new leadership at State & Local Law News, with Editor Kathy Kinsman and Associate Editors Liz Peetz and Erika Robinson. At our law review, The Urban Lawyer, Daiquiri Steele, is now Editor and Dwight Merriam is Interim Chair of Urban Lawyer Advisory Board. Many thanks to Robert Thomas, who served as The Urban Lawyer Editor since the law journal’s relationship with University of Missouri at Kansas City Law School ended in 2017, and the lawyers in his firm. Volumes 50:2 and 50:3 (Robert’s last and Daiquiri’s first) are online, including Patty Salkin’s outstanding article on the impact of COVID on higher education. See the notice of charges for hard copy issues of The Urban Lawyer elsewhere in this issue. Daiquiri is already seeking articles for Volume 51.

In closing, I want to emphasize that members of the Section are a community. We share in our notable events and accomplishments, and in our joys and sorrows. Please send news to Kathy Kinsman, with copies to me and Tamara Edmonds Askew, Section Director, regarding professional news, personal news — including marriages and new babies – and news of Section members and others of value to our practice areas who have died.

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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.