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October 05, 2023

ABA distributes grant money to help promote civics and civility, strengthen the rule of law

CHICAGO, Oct. 5, 2023 — The American Bar Association finalized the recipients of subgrants from a $200,000 grant awarded by the American Arbitration Association International Centre for Dispute Resolution as part of the  “Cornerstones of Democracy: Civics, Civility, and Collaboration” initiatives.

Earlier this year the AAA-ICDR Foundation awarded a grant to the ABA to help bars across the U.S. strengthen democracy and the rule of law. Seven state, local and affinity bars were selected to receive funding for programming on fostering community dialogue, improving understanding of the rule of law and helping to restore confidence in our democratic processes. 

Bar partners were invited to generate projects that engage the public with democratic institutions in a peaceful and respectful way (civility), engage from a standpoint of constitutional knowledge (civics) and act in concert with others, because many voices are more powerful than one (collaboration). The ABA particularly encouraged programming that builds community bridges and dispute resolution grounded in a positive vision of local solutions to strengthen democracy.

The following projects were funded through June 2025:

National Asian Pacific American Bar Association (NAPABA): Invest in a cohort of Indiana-based AAPI community leaders by training them on the parameters of advocacy and lobbying within the restrictions of 501(c)(3) status and organizing coalitions for issues of common cause.

National Native American Bar Association (NNABA): Empower native communities to exercise and protect their voting rights through fostering connection and collaboration across regional and national networks of native lawyers who will run educational programs for native communities on civic duties, including voting and voting rights. The summit phase will involve an in-person gathering of native affiliate leaders and voting rights experts at its 2024 Annual Meeting. The goal will be to create a toolkit for voter education and election day monitoring activities.

Oakland County (Mich.) Bar Association: Expand law-related educational programming for students and voters. The OCBA will aim to increase participation in its annual Youth Law Conference by expanding scholarships enhancing partnerships with community organizations to expand marketing efforts for the Judicial Candidate Forums.

The Omaha Bar Association: Hold town hall meetings for the Omaha legal community and in partnership with local civic, faith and higher educational institutions. The town halls will showcase good examples of civility and how it can be used in driving change. The Bar will also expand CLE programming on elections and expand its message of civility and community engagement through its Bar Talk podcast.

Ohio State Bar Association: Paid digital media campaign to drive Ohio voters to Judicial Votes Count, a nonpartisan voter information page, which provides reliable information about judges on the ballot and stresses the importance of participating in judicial elections. The bulk of the funding will go towards the November 2024 election, where Ohio will be electing candidates for Supreme Court of Ohio and Courts of Appeals. The Ohio Bar will work with other community partners, especially other media organizations, to raise the profile of the site and encourage the participation of Ohio judges in the project.

State Bar of Montana: Expand public access to the Citizens’ Law School, a statewide program designed to elevate understanding of the legal system and increase civics education. The grant will help improve technological capabilities for remote access; develop partnerships with media, civic organizations and law schools; and allow for expanded in-person programming.

Washington County (Pa.) Bar Association: Design and implement programs to help nudge the community from “Crazytown” (the moniker given in a recent national news article) to “Civiltown.” The bar will launch a variety of civics and civility-focused programming, including classroom visits for Law Day, a community film screening and discussion, and collaborative programs with Washington and Jefferson’s Conflict Resolution Studies program and Waynesburg University’s Stover Center for Constitutional Studies and Moral Leadership and a trivia competition centered on bipartisanship.

For further information about the programs and the grants, please contact Rachel Ellett, manager of research and analytics, ABA Center for Bar Leadership.

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.