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July 15, 2020

COVID-19, police reform, election 2020 among highlights at ABA virtual Annual Meeting July 29-Aug. 4

CHICAGO, July 15, 2020 — The legal problems spawned by the COVID-19 pandemic, police reform in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and threats to a fair election in November are chief among issues that will be explored online at the virtual 2020 American Bar Association Annual Meeting July 29-Aug. 4.

Among notable speakers at this premier online gathering of legal professionals, U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer will participate in a conversation with ABA President Judy Perry Martinez at the General Assembly (July 29, 4 p.m. CT), where the association’s highest honor, the ABA Medal, will be presented to World Justice Project founder William H. Neukom.

Also, Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael S. Harrison and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) examine law enforcement reform (July 31, 3 p.m. CT), while Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (July 31, noon CT) will speak on the broader fight for racial justice and equality. House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), Harmeet Dhillon of the Republican National Committee and Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund President Tom Saenz debate voter suppression efforts (July 31, 1 p.m. CT). Legal futurist Richard Susskind introduces technology to bridge America’s access-to-justice gap (on demand program). And, U.S. Army Undersecretary James E. McPherson, former Department of Homeland Security Undersecretary Suzanne Spaulding and California Supreme Court Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar explore foreign cyberthreats against the electoral process and other American institutions (July 29, 10 a.m. CT).

In addition, the ABA House of Delegates — the association’s policymaking body — will meet at 10 a.m. CT on Aug. 3-4. For details on the nearly three dozen proposals for debate and vote during the two-day session, click here

Online registration is available for news reporters. ABA credential guidelines are here

Newsworthy programs (all sessions in Central Time) include:

Wednesday, July 29

“Hacking Democracy: Elections and Beyond” Is the United States ready to counteract digital threats from foreign adversaries as the November elections approach? U.S. Army Undersecretary James E. McPherson, former Department of Homeland Security Undersecretary Suzanne Spaulding and California Supreme Court Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar are among panelists who will explore the latest cyberthreats against American institutions, U.S. readiness to counteract them and the defensive strategies that should be implemented now.
10-11:30 a.m.

“What Will the Next 100 Years Hold for Access to Justice? The Future of Civil Legal Aid and Public Defense in America” With more than 80% of low-income Americans unable to afford legal help, a nationally recognized panel from the public defense and civil legal aid communities – including leaders of the ACLU and Center of Access to Justice at Georgia State Law – will explore latest trends and data on legal services and share the most promising innovations available today to help bridge the justice gap.
Noon-1:30 p.m.

“Sister Helen Prejean” — The New Orleans Congregation of St. Joseph nun and founder of victims’ advocacy group SURVIVE shares her path from teacher to nationally recognized advocate for the abolition of the death penalty at an award ceremony honoring the pro bono work of lawyers.
1:30-2:30 p.m.

“COVID-19: Legal Issues, Responses and Practice Going Forward” Legal Services Corporation President Emeritus James Sandman, chair of the ABA Task Force on Legal Needs Arising Out of the 2020 Pandemic, and National Legal Aid & Defender Association CEO Jo-Ann Wallace will lead panelists who will report on the most common legal needs that have arisen during the COVID-19 crisis, forecast the legal issues likely to come up as the pandemic goes on and review the challenges in responding to these concerns. Panelists will also offer ways to best mobilize pro bono assistance during the crisis.
2-3:30 p.m.

“U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer, General Assembly and Presentation of the ABA Medal” — Justice Breyer will be among legal luminaries at the General Assembly, where the association’s highest honor, the ABA Medal, will be presented to World Justice Project founder William H. Neukom, an international champion for justice who has devoted his life and career to public service, access to justice and advancing the rule of law.
4-5 p.m.

Thursday, July 30

“The Paucity of Women of Color in the Legal Profession and Its Impact on the Administration of Justice” — Although women of color comprise 14% of all associates, the percentage of them employed as partners has remained stuck below 3.5%. Despite nearly two decades of efforts to diversify the profession, the barriers to progress for female attorneys of color remain high, say the leads of the just released ABA study, “Left Out and Left Behind,” who will discuss the results of their work and offer concrete recommendations to improve long-term career prospects. Also, women who have broken through the legal profession’s glass ceiling will offer lessons learned for the coming generation.
10-11:30 a.m.

“The Roberts Court 2019-20: Is the Remote Court Distancing Itself from the Kennedy Era?” U.S. Supreme Court commentators, academic scholars and lawyers who have argued before the high court will dissect the latest term and its most compelling cases, including those involving the power of the executive branch, Roe v. Wade’s future, the right to bear arms, the fate of DACA recipients and what “sex” means under Title VII.
1-2:30 p.m.

“Climate Change and the Legal Profession” – Lawyers on the cutting edge of environmental law will explore the legal implications of climate change, new practice areas that will likely result from the growing crisis and efforts of the legal community to address climate change, including those initiated by the ABA.
3-4:30 p.m.

Friday, July 31

“Justice in the Crosshairs: Defending Judicial Independence” — Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht and former Iowa Supreme Court Justice Marsha Ternus, a recent successful target for non-retention by well-financed interest groups angered over a court decision, will report on increasing political pressures undermining judicial independence and separation of powers throughout the country and the duty of attorneys to combat it. Additionally, Associate Justice José Ramón Cossío Díaz of the Mexican Supreme Court and Judge Dariusz Masur of the Polish association of judges, THEMIS, will illustrate how threats to judicial independence play out on foreign soil.
10-11:30 a.m.

“Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot” — As the nation grapples with new awareness of longstanding racial justice inequities, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot provides remarks on today’s fight for equality and the role of lawyers during an event hosted by the ABA Section of Litigation.
Noon-1:30 p.m.

“The Power of Women in U.S. Elections” The state of voting rights in America will be debated by a panel – House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), former California Republican Party Vice-chair Harmeet Dhillon, President Tom Saenz of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and President Barbara Arnwine of the Transformative Justice Coalition – as the nation commemorates the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. Panelists will explore efforts to curtail voting, focusing on the role of women, particularly Black women, in exercising their right to vote and the influence of their votes on the November election.
1-2:30 p.m.

“Justice and Policing – A Path Forward” The killing of George Floyd and other Black Americans by law enforcement officers has generated urgent calls for police reform. Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael S. Harrison and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) will be among panelists who will share innovative strategies, best practices and other necessary changes to improve policing in the United States in the context of systemic racism and inequality in the criminal justice system.
3-4:30 p.m.

Marian Wright Edelman, founder and president emerita of the Children's Defense Fund” — One of the nation’s strongest voices for children and families, Edelman will discuss 45 years at the helm of the landmark organization, as recipient of the 2020 ABA Thurgood Marshall Award.
4:30-5:30 p.m.

On-demand ABA programs (available July 29) include:

“Fairness, Equity and Justice in the Workplace” On the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that Title VII prohibits workplace discrimination against LGBTQ employees, former EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum, now director of Workplace Culture Consulting at Morgan Lewis, will discuss a range of equity issues in the workplace and how to create respectful, diverse and inclusive environments.

“Justice in Space” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and acting Associate Administrator Mike Gold will discuss the legal issues related to the “final frontier,” such as sustainable space exploration and commercial flight activity; and report on NASA initiatives, including Artemis, which will land the first woman on the surface of the moon by 2024.

“Online Courts and the Future of Justice” — Legal futurist Richard Susskind will discuss how technology will transform litigation and provide solutions to the global access to justice problem.

Reporters: Stay updated before and during the Annual Meeting by visiting the conference’s Reporter Resources and general information website.

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