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August 06, 2022

New ABA plan to restore confidence in judiciary, boost rule of law

The American Bar Association launched a new project at its 2022 Annual Meeting called “Cornerstones of Democracy: Civics, Civility and Collaboration.”

The commission spearheading the initiative held its first meeting at the Chicago conference and the commission chairs, Judge Adriene Nelson and William Weisenberg, also led a panel program with the National Council of Bar Presidents to launch the effort.

Through the Cornerstones program, the ABA will encourage the legal profession to lead the way in promoting civics, civility, and collaboration to restore confidence in our democratic institutions and the judicial system, and to protect the rule of law.

Nelson, an associate justice of the Oregon Supreme Court, who was recently nominated by President Joe Biden to serve on the U.S. District Court in Oregon, said that Cornerstones plans monthly programming. She said she hoped the initiative would carry on for more than a year as well.

She talked about being civil as just “trying to do as a human,” and said that a primary goal of the initiative is to get people to have productive conversations about often divisive topics.

Weisenberg pointed out the importance of promoting civil discourse at the local level, adding that “just because we disagree, it doesn’t mean we have to be disagreeable.”

The National Council of Bar Presidents program, hosted by Jennifer Parent, past president of the New Hampshire State Bar, highlighted successful civics education programs produced by state and local bar associations. The programs proved to be very effective at reaching high school students. Nelson stressed that these programs should serve as templates for other localities and that the Cornerstones could help in facilitating these through its website.  Cornerstones also has a downloadable guide on starting difficult conversations that can be used to develop local programming.

Next up, the Cornerstones Commission will host an Aug. 25 conference, co-sponsored with the University of Miami School of Communications, called "Journalism & Civility as Cornerstones of Democracy." New ABA President Deborah Enix-Ross will participate.