October 2012 Volume 9 Number 2

Section Chair's Column: Amplify Your Voice

By David L.Douglass,Shook, Hardy & Bacon L.L.P., Washington, DC

AuthorLast month I attended the ABA Section Officers Conference. As the name reflects, the SOC, as it is called, is comprised of the officers of the ABA Sections, Divisions and Forums. The Conference affords an opportunity for the officers to compare experiences, share ideas, and promote collaboration. It also provides opportunity for the officers to dialogue with the Association’s leadership about the state of the ABA, the challenges it is facing, and solutions and initiatives it is pursuing. Although, as you might expect, a lot can be said about two days of meetings with hundreds of attorneys each of whom believes he or she has their own perspective on an issue that must be heard, invariably the meeting is productive, informative and occasionally uplifting. I want to direct my comments this month to two of those inspiring moments.

I was surprised—and proud—to learn from ABA President Laurel Bellows that one of her signature initiatives is the establishment of a Task Force on Human Trafficking. As some of you know, I was a former civil rights prosecutor and I know that human trafficking or—as President Bellows exposed it to be—modern day slavery, is a terrible, present, tragic crime. Women are trafficked. Children are trafficked. Men are trafficked. They are smuggled as cargo, concealed as contraband, and abused as objects. This crime goes well beyond sexual trafficking, which is probably most known, to include a wide range of labor, including domestic help, manufacturing and agriculture. Part of the tragedy lies in the fact that most people are unaware of this crime’s existence, scale or cruelty. Human trafficking is an injustice that has too long needed a champion. And it is the kind of injustice that President Bellows rightfully mobilizes our Association to expose and fight. Here is a link to President Bellow’s remarks on this issue, http://www.abanow.org/2012/08/aba-president-bellows-on-human-trafficking.

I was later approached by the Chair of the Section of Environment, Energy and Resources (SEER) who noted that I had not appointed a liaison from our Section to SEER. I confessed that I had not done so in large part because I did not see the natural link between our Sections. She quickly yet tactfully pointed out to me that the consequences of environment and energy law and policy directly affect health issues, such as the issue of environmental toxins. Of course, once she pointed them out, they were obvious. Our discussion was another reminder that health law touches all segments of society and we as a Section should aspire to engage as broadly and as deeply as we can.

I often feel that I should devote more time to pro bono or social justice activities hearing. My experience at SOC reminded me that through my ABA membership I support an organization that whose mission is to apply the legal profession’s expertise, resources and power to the cause of safeguarding legal rights, protecting civil liberties and spreading social justice. As ABA members we can not only support these efforts as members, we can actively engage in them. As members of the Health Law Section we are the voice of the ABA on health law and policy. Yet by joining with other powerful voices in the ABA we can amplify our voice and our ability to strengthen our profession and advance the cause of justice. If you are interested in becoming involved in either of these two initiatives on behalf of the Section, I would love to hear from you. You would be performing a great service to our Section and our profession.

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