American Bar Association
- 1 Ethical standards for lawyers
- 2 Accreditation of Law Schools
- 3 Publications
- 4 Governing bodies and leaders
- 5 Rating of Judicial nominees
- 6 ABA: Constitutional violations by the Bush Administration
- 7 Judicial selection
- 8 State court conference
- 9 Criticisms of the ABA
- 10 External links
- 11 References
The American Bar Association was founded August 21, 1878 by a group of 75 lawyers. The ABA is a voluntary bar association of lawyers and law students which is not specific to any jurisdiction in the United States. The American Bar Association mission:
|“||To serve equally our members, our profession and the public by defending liberty and delivering justice as the national representative of the legal profession||”|
Ethical standards for lawyers
In 1983, the ABA adopted the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, these rules have been adopted by the District of Columbia and all of the states except California. The current Rules are evolved versions of the Model Code of Professional Responsibility adopted in 1969 and the earlier 1908 Canons of Professional Ethics.
Accreditation of Law Schools
According to the ABA, it "provides law school accreditation, continuing legal education, information about the law, programs to assist lawyers and judges in their work, and initiatives to improve the legal system for the public. The Mission of the American Bar Association is to be the national representative of the legal profession, serving the public and the profession by promoting justice, professional excellence and respect for the law."
ABA accreditation is important not only because it affects the recognition of the law schools involved, but it also impacts a graduate's ability to practice law in a particular state. Specifically, in most jurisdictions, graduation from an ABA-accredited law school is expressly stated as a prerequisite towards being allowed to sit for that state's bar exam, and for existing lawyers to be admitted to the bar of another state upon motion. Even states which recognize unaccredited schools within its borders will generally not recognize such schools from other jurisdictions for purposes of bar admission.
The Association publishes a general magazine for all members, the ABA Journal. ABA members may also join subject-specific "sections" and each section publishes a variety of newsletters and magazines for its members (such as Law Practice Magazine published by the Law Practice Management Section). The sections also hold their own meetings.
Each section will normally have a publication program that includes (1) books, usually oriented toward practitioners; (2) scholarly journals, such as Administrative Law Review (published by the ABA Section of Administrative Law & Regulatory Practice and The American University Washington College of Law) and The International Lawyer (published by the ABA Section of International Law and Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law); (3) newsletters, such as The International Law News (published by the ABA Section of International Law); (4) e-publications, such as a monthly message from the section chair, or updates on substantive law developments; and (5) committee publications, such as a committee newsletter published by one of the substantive law committees.
Governing bodies and leaders
The ABA has a House of Delegates which acts as the organization's primary body for adopting new policies and recommendations as part of the association's official position.
In 1995 Roberta Cooper Ramo became the first woman president of the American Bar Association since its inception in 1878.
Recent ABA Presidents
- 2000-2001: Martha Barnett
- 2002-2003: Alfred P. Carlton, Jr.
- 2003-2004: Dennis W. Archer (first African-American president)
- 2004-2005: Robert J. Grey, Jr.
- 2005-2006: Michael S. Greco of Boston, Massachusetts (first foreign-born president)
- 2006-2007: Karen J. Mathis
- 2007-2008: William H. Neukom
- 2008-2009: H. Thomas Wells, Jr.
- 2009-2010: Carolyn B. Lamm
- 2010-2011: Stephen N. Zack
- 2011-2012: William. T. (Bill) Robinson III
- 2012-2013: Laurel G. Bellows
- 2013-2014: James R. Silkenat
- 2014-2015: William C. Hubbard President Elect
Rating of Judicial nominees
For decades, the ABA has participated in the federal judicial nomination process by vetting nominees and giving them a rating ranging from "not qualified" to "well qualified." The process has been accused by some conservatives (including the Federalist Society) of having a liberal bias. For example, the ABA gave Ronald Reagan's judicial nominees Richard Posner and Frank Easterbrook low "qualified/not qualified" ratings; later, the ABA gave Bill Clinton judicial nominees with similar resumes "well qualified" ratings.
In 2001, the George W. Bush administration announced that it would cease cooperating with the ABA in advance of judicial nominations. The ABA continued to rate nominees, including those of George W. Bush. For example, in 2005, it rated John Roberts, nominated for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, a unanimous "well-qualified" rating. It also gave a unanimous "well qualified" rating to appellate court nominee Miguel Estrada, who withdrew from consideration after a filibuster. However, it gave only a "qualified/not-qualified" rating to nominee Janice Brown. In 2006, the ABA gave a unanimous "well-qualified" rating to Judge Samuel Alito, Bush's appointee for Sandra Day O'Connor's Associate Justice position. In 2009, the Obama administration announced that it would reinstate the pre-Bush policy of consultation with the ABA in judicial nominations. In 2009 and 2010, the ABA gave Obama's Supreme Court nominees Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan its highest rating, "well-qualified."
ABA: Constitutional violations by the Bush Administration
In July 2006, an ABA task force under then President Michael S. Greco released a report that concluded that George W. Bush's use of "signing statements" violates the Constitution. These are documents attached by the President to bills he signs, in which he states that he will enforce the new law only to the extent that he feels the law conforms to his interpretation of the Constitution.
In an interview, then ABA President-elect Carolynn Lamm reiterated that the official policy of the ABA is to support "merit selection", stating that she "absolutely [agrees] with the ABA position on merit selection, judicial selection" and that "in other jurisdictions, certainly, that either a merit selection process or retention elections after a merit election process produce excellent state judges."
State court conference
The ABA had planned a May 2009 conference in Charlotte, NC entitled "The Critical Role of Fair and Impartial State Courts." Prominent ABA leaders, along with leadership from groups such as the American Judicature Society (AJS) and Justice at Stake, assisted in planning this conference. The event featured several state governors and state supreme court justices, and intended to discuss state funding issues, the relationship between the three branches, and how to insure fair and impartial state courts.
Criticisms of the ABA
The ABA has been criticized for perceived elitism and overrepresentation of white male corporate defense lawyers among its membership; in 1925, African-American lawyers formed the National Bar Association at a time when ABA would not allow them to be members.
However, since the 1960s, the ABA has made great strides in increasing the diversity of its membership. Its membership has grown from less than 11 percent of all American lawyers to roughly 50 percent today. In recent years, the ABA has also drawn some criticism, mainly from the conservative side of the political spectrum, for taking positions on controversial public policy topics such as abortion, capital punishment and gun control. The ABA's official position in favor of abortion rights led to the formation of a (much smaller) alternative organization for lawyers, the National Lawyers Association. The Federalist Society sponsors a twice-a-year publication called "ABA Watch" that reports on the political activities of the ABA.
There are heated debates over requirements placed on law schools by the ABA. Many states and practitioners believe ABA requirements to be unnecessary and costly. Some legal professionals and academics feel these requirements promote the rising cost of tuition.
- Judicial Ratings by Congress
- WND, "Tyranny of the American Bar Association," January 12, 2008
- American Bar Association homepage
- List of ABA approved law schools
- ABA Student Lawyer magazine
- ABA Commission on Mental and Physical Disability Law
- The Federalist Society ABA Watch
- Blog of Legal Times "White House Scratches Its Head Over Some ABA Ratings of Judicial Nominees," April 14, 2011
- American Bar Association, "ABA Mission and Goals," accessed March 5, 2014
- American Bar Association, "History of the American Bar Association," accessed March 5, 2014
- NCBEX, "Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements," accessed March 5, 2014
- Rules Regarding Admission to Practice Law (California)
- Center for Individual Freedom, "ABA Retains Little Objectivity in Nomination Process," accessed March 5, 2014
- Federalist Society, "ABA Ratings of Judicial Nominees," accessed March 5, 2014
- New York Times, "Pulling Rank," January 25, 2006
- The New York Times, "The A.B.A. and Judicial Nominees," April 13, 2009
- CBS News, "Obama Taps Moderate Judge, Brings ABA Back Into Fold," March 17, 2009
- Los Angeles Times, "American Bar Association gives Sonia Sotomayor its highest rating," July 08, 2009
- boston.com, "ABA gives Kagan highest rating for judicial nominees," June 24, 2010
- "February 2009 ABA Watch," accessed March 5, 2014
- The Federalist Society, "Bar Watch Bulletin," February 14, 2009
- American Bar Association, "Special Committee on Gun Violence," accessed March 5, 2014