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April 11, 2023

Statement of ABA President Deborah Enix-Ross Re: Civility in government

WASHINGTON, April 11, 2023 — The American Bar Association is concerned by the way the Tennessee state legislature has dealt with discussions about important issues presented to the body following the March 27 mass shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville that resulted in the deaths of three students, three adults and the alleged shooter.

In the wake of tragedies such as the one that took place at the Covenant School, the public looks to its elected representatives to consider and develop solutions. When much is at stake and emotions run high, the need for civility and collaboration is greatest. Legislators fail the people who elected them when they let rancor get in the way of reaching productive compromises. We are experiencing a growing lack of confidence in many democratic institutions and these actions do nothing to increase confidence.

Lawmakers should be allowed to express dissent. If that dissent breaks the rules of the body, appropriate and proportional discipline may be needed. But democracy is not served by denying voters the representation of the people they elected to advocate for their interests. 

The ABA is the largest voluntary association of lawyers in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.