October 20, 2008


Letter, Signed by More Than 30 Bar Presidents from Across the Nation, Sent to Presidential Candidates

State bar presidents from across the country have joined together, calling on presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama to address a number of critical legal issues and policy topics confronting the nation during their respective bids for the White House. Signed by the leaders of 33 state bar associations, a letter focusing on substantive legal issues and challenges that lawyers, citizens and state bar presidents confront on a daily basis was sent to each candidate's campaign staff. The letter emanated from a summit recently convened by New York State Bar Association President Bernice K. Leber (Arent Fox LLP) in New York City.

Dated October 8th, the letter asks the candidates to respond to a number of questions concerning a range of important areas, including expanding civil legal services and access to justice for the poor, maintaining a fair and impartial judiciary, working to depoliticize the Justice Department, and infusing civics education into our public schools to enhance our children's knowledge of the central role played by the justice system in American society. To view a copy of the letter sent to the presidential candidates, please visit www.nysba.org/presidentsletter.

"As we face an historic presidential election, the leaders of this nation's legal community have an extraordinary opportunity to drive the national debate surrounding the issues of key importance to our justice system," said Leber. "This collaborative effort gives voice to the legal community and demonstrates that we are united in our desire to play an important, proactive role in the shaping of future legal policies. I want to personally thank everyone who participated in this historic summit for their outstanding work and for answering the call to help make a difference."

Following the election in November, the bar presidents will ask the newly-elected President to meet with them in Washington, D.C. next April in order to discuss the President's program on legal and justice system issues.

The summit with state bar presidents was modeled on the one convened in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy. Upon taking office, President Kennedy met with the 50 State Bar leaders in order to discuss the great issues of the day confronting the legal system and our society. This meeting among distinguished bar leaders and the President led his administration to focus heavily on civil rights and the formation of the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, an advocacy organization that is still very influential to this day.

In addition to Bernice K. Leber, President of the New York State Bar Association, the list of signatories represents leaders of state bar associations from throughout the nation, including: Mark White, Alabama Bar Association; Mitchell Seaver, Alaska Bar Association; Holly J. Fujie, The State Bar of California; Livia DeFilippis Barndollar, Connecticut Bar Association; Allen Terrell, Delaware State Bar Association; Ralph Albrecht, The Bar Association of the District of Columbia; John White, The Florida Bar; Jack Carey, Illinois State Bar Association; Dan Moore, The Iowa State Bar Association; Thomas Wright, Kansas Bar Association; Brett Baber, Maine State Bar Association; Katherine Howard, Maryland State Bar Association, Inc.; Edward W. McIntyre, Massachusetts Bar Association; Edward H. Pappas, State Bar of Michigan; Michael Ford, Minnesota State Bar Association; Charlie Harris, The Missouri Bar; Chris Tweeten, State Bar of Montana; Bruce Beesley, State Bar of Nevada; Peggy Knee, New Jersey Bar Association; Craig Orraj, State Bar of New Mexico; Charles Becton, North Carolina Bar Association; Maya B. Kara, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands Bar Association; Gary Leppla, Ohio State Bar Association; John Conger, Oklahoma Bar Association; Richard Yugler, Oregon State Bar; C. Dale McClain, Pennsylvania Bar Association; Richard Pacia, Rhode Island Bar Association; Nathan Alder, Utah State Bar; Mark Hodge, Virgin Islands Bar Association; Stanley Bastian, Washington State Bar Association; Dwane Tinsley, West Virginia State Bar; and Diane Diel, State Bar of Wisconsin.

The 74,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Founded in 1876, the Association's programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for more than 130 years.